Theories abound about this Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy, made concurrently with Prisoners and ultimately the better of the two. It’s a very different beast, of course; Prisoners is a glum, violent mystery with a dodgy sense of morality, whereas Enemy is pretty much Cronenberg homage.
The plot, concerning a wet towel of a college lecturer (Jake Gyllenhaal) who discovers his doppelgänger is a jobbing actor – or is it the other way round? – is straight out of the Cronenberg wheelhouse. The setting is Toronto, ostensibly, but the presentation is as a Ballard-esque modernist nightmare; a brutalist, very Cronenbergian un-place.
And in general there are nods to the great Canadian’s work throughout: the strange fluidity of identity (Dead Ringers), the heart-stopping shock of a car wreck (Crash), the mind-bending visions of impossible creatures (Naked Lunch), even the casting (the magnetic Sarah Gadon is a Cronenberg regular at this stage).
That Villeneuve can bring these all together in a package that feels wholly its own, and not a mere pastiche of those influences, is a credit to him as a filmmaker. That he chooses to end the film on such an uncomfortable, head-spinning note, and that it feel like it works, makes that doubly so.