R. Ayoadi’s “The Double” can be safely called a film-paradox. This is an arthouse, but an arthouse, understandable and interesting even for a soap opera lover. This is a very successful film incarnation of Dostoevsky’s story, although not much remains of the story itself in the film. And, finally, this is a rather sad story, sustained, in addition, in the gloomy tones of dystopia, but at the same time leaves an optimistic impression. Let’s try to figure out what the secret of this film is.
Ayoadi and Dostoevsky
Fyodor Dostoevsky’s early story The Double was never one of the writer’s successes, but its main idea turned out to be so original and witty that for the second century it has inspired writers and directors. Ayoadi borrowed from the text of the classic both the image of the main character and a number of plot moves.
Golyadkin, the hero of Dostoevsky, and Simon, the hero of Ayoadi, are very similar: they are petty clerks with oddities who encounter punchy and impudent doubles. However, Hannah’s line, which is so important in the film, is completely absent from the story, and vice versa, the characters in Dostoevsky’s text, for example, Dr. Rutenshpitz or State Councilor Berendeyev, did not enter the world created by Ayodi. The finals of both works are also different: Golyadkin loses a fight with a double, and he is taken to a hospital for the mentally ill, Simon manages to survive and win.
Thus, Ayoadi’s film cannot be considered a film adaptation, and those who, after watching, turn to Dostoevsky’s story, may be disappointed. However, the English director managed to do more than simply reproduce the letter of the text: he conveyed its spirit and main idea.
What is the main idea of the film?
To get to the main idea of the film, you have to remove layer by layer, like a husk from an onion, the surface layers of meaning. At first glance, The Double is a poignant tale of loneliness, which, in turn, is due to the alienation and indifference of modern society.
But Simon’s problem is not only loneliness, but also in his social status: he is nothing more than a cog in a complex mechanism, an insignificant part of the system, and besides, he is depressingly poor. However, upon closer examination, it turns out that Ayoyadi is by no means creating another version of the “little man” suffering from the powers that be.
Simon’s main problem lies not in external circumstances, but in himself. His main enemy is his dark self, and the collision with a double shows us how illusory our stereotypical ideas about people are. A self-confident careerist and a downtrodden loser, a timid romantic and a hardened cynic, an idealist and a lecher can get along well in one person, moreover, these are two sides of the same coin. This means that many social problems – at least in our time – are nothing more than problems of personal choice.
Where and when does the film take place?
Critics have rightly noted that the world of the “Double” resembles the worlds of Kafka: it is gloomy and conventional. The viewer is not told what country Simon lives in and what year is indicated in the calendar, but still the clothes of the heroes and some other realities make it possible to determine, if not a year, then a decade. Apparently, the heroes of Ayoadi’s film live somewhere in Western Europe in the 1960s.
Why are almost all of Simon’s colleagues old?
The company in which the protagonist works is distinguished by a very interesting principle of personnel selection: the vast majority of its employees are people of retirement age. And Simon’s mother looks very old for such a young son.
The meaning of such games with the age of the characters is revealed if we recall the symbolic meaning of the image of an old man / old woman: this is not only wisdom, but also the absence of a future, sterility and the nearness of death. Simon found himself in a place devoid of prospects and hopes, and his future is highly uncertain.
What is the meaning of Hannah’s line?
Simon’s falling in love with pretty Hannah seems quite logical: in her white dresses, she literally looks like a ray of light in a dark kingdom. Simon wants to see a kindred spirit in Hannah, and he spies on her not so much in the hope of seeing the girl naked, as in the hope of making sure that he is not hopelessly alone in the universe with his oddities. The most interesting thing is that this is so: Hannah, who kills pigeons and paints them with blood, is clearly not the healthiest person on the planet, although she is far from Simon’s split.
What’s the point of the final scene?
As soon as Simon realizes that the double destroying his life is himself, he realizes that he must find a way to eliminate him without killing himself. By tying the double to the bed, he deprives him of the opportunity to follow him, and he himself jumps out of the window so as to fall on the net that absorbs the fall.
Spiritually, this strange suicide attempt symbolizes initiation, the oldest ritual in which a person must die and be reborn in a different status. Simon kills his dark “I”, gaining spiritual integrity, and there is every reason to believe that after leaving the hospital, he – and Hannah – will begin a completely different life.