The Double Review
78%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (3 Votes)

The Double is a witty but mostly gloomy and depressing story about social alienation and falling victim to the mundane world.

Avid readers might find it interesting that the film is based on the novel “The Double” by Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

The film promises to be ambitious- an intellectual treat, if you will. However, unfortunately, it could leave the average viewer rather confused and somewhat disappointed.

Simon James (Eisenberg) is a timid man working many hours as a clerk. Even though his intelligence is above average, he is constantly overlooked and unappreciated by his boss (Wallace Shawn). He has some ideas on how to improve the company’s performance, however lacks the backbone and confidence to be vocal about them.

In fact, he is literally invisible to most people. To others, he seems like a burden and a pushover.

Simon develops strong feelings for coworker- Hannah, however his social anxiety prevents him from approaching the woman. Instead, he spends his evenings observing her through a telescope, as she lives diagonally from him.

Hannah does not lack social skills and seems rather direct and confident. Despite this, there are many similarities between the two. She is an artist and is constantly unsatisfied with her work. She destroys her paintings and pictures, and Simon retrieves them from the trash, puts them back together and treasures in a little scrap book.

Simon and Hannah are both stuck living monotonous lives, painfully lonely and isolated but dreaming about bigger and better things.

Mundane is a real understatement for the lives they live. The setting of the film is reminiscent of the communist era in Eastern Europe (perhaps a distant reference to Dostoyevsky): mind numbing and lacking esthetic value. Both Simon and Hannah live in a Panelak- a concrete block of tiny, identical apartments. The bizarre picture is accompanied by a medley of Japanese songs, which not only numbs ones mind but also the ears. This adds to the overall darkness and absurdity the story is drenched in.

One day Simon’s life takes a sudden turn for the worst when he meets his doppelganger- James Simon. Despite the same look, the man is Simon’s opposite: confident, brazen and a casanova.

Initially, James seems to want to help Simon become more confident and comfortable with himself but ultimately he is shown as a spiteful, malicious man whose goal is to destroy Simon both professionally and emotionally.

When Simon discovers his ‘twin’ has left Hannah high and dry, something in him breaks and for the first time in his life he decides to break through his fears and live up to who he really is.

the double

The Double is an overall interesting and clever film, full of symbolism and darkness. It is not an easy watch and definitely not Saturday night entertainment.

The concept of this production is intriguing and debatable. Surely, some viewers will argue that Simon and James are actually the same person. Perhaps developing a split personality is a way for Simon to cope with his loneliness, alienation and lack of recognition. What is sad is that ultimately his alter ego becomes the reason for his downfall. If anyone has seen Darren Aronofsky’s  ‘Black Swan’, they will definitely find some similarities between Simon and Nina (played beautifully by Natalie Portman).

Despite being rich in symbols, what the film lacks is emotional depth. There are moments when it becomes a dull experience and you wish you could fast forward and cut to the chase. The only truly touching moment seems to be when Simon talks openly to James about his feelings for Hannah and the violin music in the background toward the end of the story. However most of the time the film is more like the aforementioned Panelak- bizarre and mind-numbing.

The film’s strong point is Jesse Eisenberg’s performance. It feels like he is more cut out to play Simon but is just as good playing the cold and cruel James. He makes the viewer go back and forth between empathy and disgust, which is an indication of superb acting.

Mia Wasikowska’s performance deserves recognition as well. Not to mention her statuesque beauty and Slavic features which blend very well with the film’s setting.

When still on “good terms”, James tells Simon he needs to go after what he wants. This could be considered one of the main themes of this story. Simon continuously lets life pass him by. He is stuck living a less than mediocre life, being miserable but refusing to change it. It seems as if he is blocking his inner self until it rages upon him like a tidal waive, destroying everything on its path, including him.

The lesson here could be that of letting go of outdated attitudes and belief systems that no longer serve us, or in fact never have. The sooner we do, the better. Otherwise, they will come crushing down upon us like a tower. Or the infamous Panelak.

Directed by: Richard Ayoade

Features: Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska

Release date: May 2014

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