Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg) regularly spies on Hannah (Mia Wasikowska); a work colleague who lives in the block of flats across from his. It’s a daily routine. As is being put upon by everyone he comes into contact with. Ignored at work, abused by his elderly mother and even refused service in a greasy spoon restaurant, Simon’s life is almost meaningless. And then he meets James Simon (Eisenberg again), who bears more than a passing resemblance to him. Starting off amicable, James begins to bleed into Simon’s interpretation of a life, much like a weed in a flowerbed.
Richard Ayoade’s (loose) interpretation of Dostoyevsky’s titular story is a wonderfully somber and tense affair. Eisenberg is enthralling as, in the guises of Simon and James, he stutters and stoops, or smirks and swings his manhood around as needed. Equally Wasikowska provides more nuance to the film as she becomes trapped between the attentions of the two men.
Whilst the performances are strong, there must be something said about the stage they perform on. Ayoade places the audience in discomfort from the beginning with his usage of sound and visuals. Reminiscent of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, and sharing it’s satire of bureaucracy; The Double is a palette of murky brown with a throbbing intensity of sound that very rarely lets up. Never letting onto what period of time or country we’re in also disorientates. A young woman plays 80s style computer games, whilst Stalin-esque tower blocks reach up in to the sky like tombstones. It’s a rich world that’s been created, but like Simon himself, Ayoade ensures that we’re not sure of our place in it.
An excellent film and a sterling example of craftsmanship, The Double wraps itself around your brain and refuses to let go.