Friday, 5 September 2014

The Double review

Dostoyevsky is mainly known for his existential, slightly paranoid, and satirical literature. His most famous book, Crime and Punishment (released 1866), is filled the panic and delusions of a man who tries to justify the murder of a pawn broker for his cash, that the protagonist desperately needs, only to be overcome with incredible guilt. His books feel almost out of a time period, so universal is the malaise of living in a world that many don't feel connected to.

From the off-set, The Double, based on the Dostoyevsky novella, seems awash in the writers style. The look is grimey, the settings a cross between soviet and council estate. Simon's place of work is reminisant of 1984. The sound design, which alone was 5 months work, is full of mechanical noises, which only further emphasize the robot like drudgery of Simon's depressing existance.

Before Simon (Jesse Eisenburg) even discovers his doppelganger, we know his life is repressed and dull. He uses his measly pay to support his mother, who openly dislikes him. In love with a girl called Hannah (Mia Wasikowska) who lives in the opposite building, he spies on her and pathticly collects her ripped up disguarded drawings. His own place of work doesn't even recognise that he works there. Simon is a representation of the everyman loser, an amalgamation of all the unfortunate qualities we wish we didn't possess.

Then comes in James. Out of nowhere, Simon's double appears and nobody else see's the resemblance. James is everything Simon is not; popular, confidant, cocky, and lucky with the ladies. The disturbing bit in the fact that, while nobody else can see they're identical, James seems to let on that he knows, and abuses Simon's ineptitude. James is the type of person we hate, and also the type of person we want to be. Simon knows this is the man he could be if only he had the courage, but dispises the pain and embarrassment that James thrusts upon him.

The Double talks about contemporary paranoia issues, like imposter syndrome, and the feeling of if-only-I-could-do-this-then-my-life-would-be-great, but within an kind of no-place and no-time (or every-place and every-time, if you will). The theme is a univeral one, and this universality is greatly enjoyed by the director, Richard Ayoade. Details like an emo-girl playing 8-bit games in an oppressive office block that still uses monochrome moniters. English speaking people enjoy campy foreign pop songs, and watch them on chunky television sets. What is obvious is that Ayode was obsessive about the details in this film, much like he previous venture Submarine, to a degree that compete's with Wes Anderson's output.

The Double, however, suffers a bit from the oppressiveness of the director; parts of the film become very stifling as the look of the scene seems to sometimes matter more than what's going on. Although Eisenburg is very good playing both Simon and James, some of the other parts seem two-dimensional, and you end up disliking many of the characters. There is a lull in the middle of the film where it seems a little too easy to loose interest in the film, and basically shows different ways in which James shows up Simon. It sometimes feels like you are watching a film where they have focused too much on the details, and not enough on the overiding sense of the story.

While I am confident in Ayoade as a filmaker, this film is almost a victim of its own cliches. Like the famous story of a man waking up to discover he's a beetle in Kafka's Metamorphosis, we are maybe too familiar with the traditional metaphor's of existential angst. The film existing in a no-place and a no-time almost leaves it feeling like a nightmareish fairy tale of which we can't really connect to.

The film ending does leave you satisfied though, but I won't go too much into that as I don't want to spoil it.

Ayoade's first two film's remind me a little of Steve McQueen's first two efforts; Hunger and Shame. They were both great film's, but isolated potential audiences due to their slightly-arty stylings (and I just want to say that I love arty films, btw). But then Steve McQueen made 12 Years a Slave, which managed to blend his incredible directing style with an incredible story. I imagine Ayoade just needs a really brilliant screen play in order to go hand in hand with his idiosyncratic and humorous style of directing.



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