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Enemythe double

Premiering recently at the Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) were Denis Villeneuve‘s Enemy and Richard Ayoade‘s The Double, two films which both deal with the idea or theme of the ‘other’, the shadow version of ourselves.

This notion of a carbon copy of ourselves is a conceit which has been used extensively in fiction and cinema throughout the years to disorient, confound, distort, delight and disturb in varying measures.

How we perceive ourselves, our own behaviour, our reality brought into question upon the appearance of a twin; someone who seems exactly like you in appearance but does not quite behave like you; something is off, not quite right with this physical manifestation.

More often than not, when a characters doppelgänger turns up in a story, it’s a signal that madness and psychosis is not too far away. The other side of this existential conundrum is a chance for rebirth, reinvention.

The idea of the Self is up-ended, causing ruptures in the protagonists universe, throwing everything he/she knows into doubt. Our sense of identity is a fragile concept that we cling to and letting go of our image of the Self and our identity is to surrender to chaos, no?

In acknowledgement of Enemy and The Double’s cinematic forebears, here are ten choice movie cuts which delve into identity disorder.

(You may notice the obvious exclusion of the 1988 Schwarzenegger/De Vito comedy classic Twins and the 1996 Michael Keaton vehicle Multiplicity. If you’ve seen either of them, then you will know why. A film snob, moi? No, not at all monsieur but they are fairly rank, dated examples of Hollywood studio production line mediocrity that…and oh, I’ve mentioned them here so why have I wasted precious words talking about them? Good question. I will ask my psychiatrist Dr. Erik Makdonul. Wait hang on a moment here, bub. Erik Makdonul? Yeah, he’s Swedish but that sounds eerily similar to my name. No, it couldn’t be surely! I need to go to the bathroom, splash some water on my face to wake myself up and see sense. Ah, that feels better. Now to close the bathroom mirror..Aggghhhh! Dr Makdonul, what are you doing here, standing behind me in my bathroom? Oh right, I get it now. You kind of look like me but you are actually a fractured part of my psyche which I created to deal with a past trauma. Right, I’m off for a cup of tea. Glad that’s all sorted out.)

Vertigo (1958) – Director – Alfred Hitchcock

Sisters (1973) – Director- Brian De Palma

The Passenger (1975) – Director – Michelangelo Antonioni

Despair (1978) – Director – Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Possession (1981) – Director – Andrzej Zulawski

Dead Ringers (1988) – Director – David Cronenberg

The Krays (1990) – Director – Peter Medak

Raising Cain (1992) – Director – Brian DePalma

Suture (1993) – Director – Scott Mc Gehee & David Siegel

Adaptation (2002) – Director – Spike Jonze