This is the first in a new feature, where other writers and I can go in depth, explore and interpret films that not many people may understand. The first film I have chosen to do is Enemy, Enemy is one of my favourite films of 2014 and definitely I think one of the most underrated. But many people were left confused by what was going on with the film and were left perplexed by the ending. Obviously I will be going into heavy spoilers so if you haven’t seen the film please go watch it because it’s great!
The basic plot of the film is that a man who I will refer to as ‘Jake’ (Jake Gyllenhaal) finds out about another man who looks exactly like him. But really what the film is about is a man frightened of commitment due to his uncontrollable lust for women. The entire film takes place in this man’s sub-conscience mind, Director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners) has often said this in interviews. Which means that ‘teacher Jake’ and ‘actor Jake’ are EXACTLY the same person. However take notice that ‘actor Jake’ wears a wedding ring while ‘teacher Jake’ does not.
‘Control, It’s all about control.’ In teacher’s lectures at the start of the film he teaches about control, how dictatorship censors expression. Then most importantly he adds ‘It’s important to remember that this is a pattern, that repeats itself throughout history.’ This is where the spiders come in. Jake is afraid of women. He is afraid of their control and dictatorship of his life. This is what the spiders in the film represent. Now another important piece of information is that this film is a cycle, that goes on and on forever.
WOMEN & SPIDERS
Now that’s already some crazy information to hear, so i’m going to first back up my point about Jake being afraid of women and them being represented as spiders. Remember Jake’s wife is pregnant and we know he has cheated on her before, this is the commitment he is afraid of. In the animal kingdom spiders often kill their mates after trapping them in their web and mating. Right now he feels trapped in the web of his marriage, this is how the lecture of dictatorship and control links to Jake. Spiders representing women in the film is further supported when Jake sees a woman with a spider head in his dream. The clip of the giant spider over the city comes straight after a scene with Jake and his mother, his mother talks about his dream of wanting to be an actor brushing it off as silly. This is his mother dictating his path, the giant spider in the city is her controlling Jake’s mind. With this, it becomes easier to explain why Jake is at the strip club at the start watching a spider being crushed, he wants to be free. At the very end of the film when Jake’s wife transforms into a spider she acts frightened, this is because she is about to be squashed, Jake is thinking of going to back to the strip club. Which leads into the next layer of the film.
‘IT’S IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT THIS IS A PATTERN, THAT REPEATS ITSELF’
This film is an ongoing cycle, this can be obviously tied together by the beginning and end, but Denis uses other subtle ways to show this to us. The first hint we get of this cycle is at the start during Jake’s second lecture. ‘The first time is a tragedy, the second is a farce.’ This quote explains Jake’s reaction in the final shot of the film, he realises the cycle and it’s ridiculous to him. In this scene Jake misses a call from his mother, the film starts with Jake receiving a voice mail from his mother also. In this voice mail his mother mentions seeing his apartment for the first time and not liking it, but later in the film she says ‘You have a respectable job and a nice apartment.’ Jake’s mental decision to go back to the strip club after finding the key creates a downward spiral. Causing a divorce and then him moving out. Jake’s torn picture of himself is found in moving boxes remember? Other hints include when Jake returns to the house of his pregnant wife he finds the torn picture he had earlier in the film , except this time it’s not torn: It’s him with his wife presumably before she was pregnant. Moreover the first section of the film seems repetitive, all Jake does is go to work, memorise lectures and then comes home to have sex with his girlfriend.
All this is basic, these are themes which are detrimental to the plot and understanding of the film, there are other things that can be picked up. Like the occurrence of the numbers ranging from 70-75 to signify his subconscious mind, where the film takes place; similar to that of Inception. Or the fact that Jake’s character struggles to handle his sexual urges, the idea of Jake being unfaithful is constantly repeated by his wife: ‘Are you seeing her again?!’…and his mother: ‘You have enough trouble staying with one woman.’ This is what powers the psychological cycle after all.
Overall Enemy is a very entertaining film for any viewer, but also a very detailed and well thought out film. Which can be watched over and over to discover more, making it better with every watch. Reminiscent of films like Inception, technically this film is wonderful too embedding great performances from the entire cast and intelligent direction.
Words by Eddie Michael