Director: Richard Ayoade
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Wallace Shawn, Kobna Holbrook-Smyth
Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Date: April 4th
According to Irish folklore should you encounter your doppelganger in the morning then good fortune is just around the corner; however should you encounter them in the evening then bad times and possibly death awaits. What then can we expect from the arrival of Jesse Eisenberg’s double? Meeting him as he does, in a film set in perpetual night time with not a natural source of light to be seen. Loosely based on the short story by Fyodor Dostoyevsky; Ayoade’s follow up to Submarine is the story of Simon; an ineffective, shadow of a human being who one evening encounters his confident and charming double, James.
As a piece of filmmaking, The Double wears its craft very much on its sleeve. From the sound and lighting to the sets and the props; everything is incredibly stylised, setting the film in a heightened reality not unlike something one would expect from the mind of Wes Anderson. Yet, where Anderson’s film are infused with American-style optimism, here Ayoade has infused his with the a much more British-style black comedy.
Although heightened, it is a reality many of us will immediately recognise; the film rarely leaves the concrete, decaying, claustrophobic buildings in which it is set. The oversized technology and corrugated steel walls should serve to distance us from the plot yet here they seem almost over familiar; there probably isn’t a flat in Ireland like the one James lives in, yet each of us will feel like we lived somewhere just like it.
Of all the craftsmanship on show here, it’s Ayoade mastery of sound that really stands out. The sound of marching feet breaks from the diegesis and once no longer in sync with the action on screen becomes a part of the soundtrack. Similarly a joke about Simon’s exit from a train being continually blocked by packages leads to some fun with the sound mixing as the packages begin to get packed in time with the soundtrack. Largely sparing traditional instruments for exaggerated sounds of the office and industry, Ayoade has added to the feeling of alienation from nature and from life.
Eisenberg adds another performance to his list of impressive showings, here managing to be entirely convincing as two separate characters without even the help of something as simple as a costume change. It is very much his film, with everyone else relegated to the supporting roles. There are some star turns here as well and Wallace Shawn is due a special mention for his performance as James’ boss Mr Papadopoulos but you should look out for two great cameo turns from Paddy Considine and Chris Morris.
Despite all this symbolism and urban alienation what should not go unmentioned here is just how funny it is. There are few dark comedies that can muster the amount of belly laughs that this film manages to fit into its trim ninety-three minute running time. Ayoade’s editing and Eisenberg’s performance milk every last giggle out of Avi Korine’s script.
In short, it may not be an original idea but it certainly is an original vision. A true testament to what invention can be brought to any project as long as those behind it are willing and able. With his recently announced turn as Lex Luthor on the horizon, Eisenberg should be financially sound enough to keep experimenting in cut fee fare such as this. Ayoade on the other hand has done enough to cement himself as a credible and exciting young auteur; the move to Hollywood can only be a matter of time now, lets hope they don’t knock the darkness out of him.