The film by the fashionable Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve is definitely not recommended for those who like a clear, transparent storyline. Enemy (2013) – a picture with a hidden meaning and philosophical content. Roman Polanski, David Lynch, Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick – parallels with the masterpieces of the great masters are appropriate. The director himself designated the genre as a documentary about the subconscious.
Chaos is order to be deciphered
The phrase appears in the first frames of the film and from the very beginning sets the vector for the viewer. If you decipher the psychological thriller puzzle correctly, it turns out that what is happening on the screen is not nonsense and chaos, but events that have harmony and order. Another thing is that cinema of this kind, as a rule, has more than one interpretation. The director gives the audience an opportunity to independently search for the true interpretation, to think, to enjoy solving the puzzle.
At the end of the viewing, the attentive viewer has a number of questions, the answers to which are not at all obvious. An attempt to search for an explanation of the plot in the novel “The Double” by Jose Saramago is unlikely to be crowned with success, since the story shown by D. Villeneuve is not an exact adaptation of the source. An intriguing film is akin to a nesting doll: opening one meaning, you see that there is something else inside. And so over and over again.
Spiders – what do they mean, symbolize?
This question is somewhat easier to clarify, since an alternative version is unlikely. Most likely, the film plays out the interpretation of the spider according to Freud: a symbol of the maternal or generally feminine principle, rather the image of an angry woman-mother. A spider, or rather a spider, lures into the web of its web / lack of freedom. For Adam, first of all, the spider is his mother, then his wife (future mother). Other women and the metropolis in the eyes of Adam are also similar to a spider: they are dangerous, they control every step, they are imprisoned.
Spiders large and small appear in the film more than once. Spider on a platter in a club: the main character, entangled in the web of life’s difficulties, has a subconscious desire to get a solution to all his problems on a platter. A naked woman from the club (mistress) threatens to crush the spider, i.e. to defeat the pregnant wife.
A huge spider over the city is a symbol of a spider-mother who suppressed her son all her life, knew better what her child loved and wanted, dictated the rules of behavior, tastes, and activities. The colossal monster appears in the movie after a single scene with its mother. The painting uses a copy of the famous sculpture by Louise Bourgeois called “Maman”.
The final scene: Helen turns into a huge spider in the eyes of the hero, to which the husband is not at all surprised. For him, his wife has looked like this for a long time.
In addition, throughout the entire narrative, associations with cobwebs arise: wires intertwining in the sky of a big city form a corresponding pattern; the glass of a car after a car accident cracks so that viewers see the same picture.
The movie hero simply has nowhere to go – everywhere he sees his own fears, where can he maintain adequacy here?
Adam / Anthony – one or two
The film’s most important question: Who is the hero’s double? The director throws a lot of details to the audience, comparing which, you can put the puzzle together.
- The torn photograph that the historian finds in his home is exactly the same as the one on the shelf in the house of the actor and Helen.
- The glasses bought by the professor end up on Anthony’s desk.
- A key with the inscription “unica”, translated as “only” – is also a hint.
In the dialogues of the hero with his wife and mother, clues sound. The mother openly declares to Adam that he is the only son, and the wife asks how the classes went.
What’s happening? I think you know. You know everything.
The conclusion suggests itself: the hero of the story is one and the same character. Adam and Anthony are two different faces of the same person with dissociative disorder.
Action – reality or fantasy
Further decryptions are no longer so unambiguous. For example, Mary’s mistress – fiction or a real woman? The Underground Club is more like a subconscious image of the character’s repressed sexual desires.
The version is quite acceptable that most of the story takes place only in the sick imagination of the hero. The accident and death of Anthony with his mistress occur at the moment when Adam makes peace with his wife. The hero erases his negative Mr. Hyde from his life, agrees to return to his family, saying goodbye to freedom.
However, there is also the coveted key to the door in the secret club, the temptation is still too great …
Time: where does the madness start?
The chronology of the film is not linear. What is the sequence of what is happening on the screen, at what point does the hero’s split personality occur?
The following chain of events is most plausible. The wife’s pregnancy provokes the stress of the spouse, he is clearly not ready for such a turn. The fear of losing freedom leads to the hero leaving home – a new squalid apartment, a mistress, the words of the mother: “I don’t understand how you can live like this.” Further – a car accident with the probable death of Mary, trauma (scar), mental pathology.
If we consider the version that the mistress and the accident are just the hero’s fantasies, then the news of Helen’s pregnancy can be considered the trigger of madness. The film mentions a time period of 6 months several times. This is the period of pregnancy, this is how long Anthony has not appeared in the agency, and even a beard has not yet been 6 months ago.
The meaning of the ending
Adam Bell in his lectures repeatedly expresses the idea that all events in history tend to repeat themselves. And if for the first time it is a tragedy, then for the second time it is a farce.
The teacher acts as a visual illustration of the theses voiced by him. Having returned to his pregnant wife after a series of tests, the unfaithful spouse is still unable to calm down. Having found the key, he is ready to run away from home, repeating his own mistakes over and over again. This is not the first time he sees a large spider in an offended / angry Helen, not letting out of its web. It looks like there are relapses ahead that will no longer be perceived by the actors as a tragedy.
Why the enemy?
The title of the film also implies several interpretations. In the context of the plot, the enemy of the protagonist can be at the same time:
- Woman as an overwhelming beginning, hostile and frightening. In the eyes of the hero – enemy number 1.
- A city that entangles a person with a network of wires, like a spider web.
- Adam / Anthony himself. An inadequate person is often the source of his own problems. The English proverb “Be one’s own enemy”
The meaning and idea of the film
And yet, the main enemy of any person is his fears. For Adam, the family is associated with control and dictatorship, he does his best to avoid responsibility. This way of thinking interferes with building normal relationships and ultimately leads to the destruction of consciousness.
It is not for nothing that the expression “web of fear” exists. Internal phobias, anxieties entangle the soul, become an obstacle to a successful life. Perhaps this very thought could become the main lesson of Denis Villeneuve’s difficult film history.