Director: Richard Ayoade
Based on the Dostoevesky novella of the same name here’s The Double, new to DVD, and one of the best films I’ve seen this year – an enjoyable head-fuck of a film, helmed by Richard Ayoade (a man whose CV grows ever more impressive and interesting) and featuring not one but two great performances by Jesse Eisenberg and there are some fine supporting turns too from Mia Wasikowska, Noah Taylor and Wallace Shawn – watch for cameos from Ayoade’s buddies Chris O’Dowd, Paddy Considine and Christopher Morris – also, bizarrely, brilliantly, J Mascis.
The look and feel of the film – a black-comedy/dystopian-satire, sci-fi meets Office Space by way of Brazil, a half a dozen David Lynch moments, a pinch of The Matrix and plenty of punch in the style (visually) of Stanley Kubrick’s best bits – is the main attraction though, almost the star.
Eisenberg plays the doubles – Simon James and James Simon, one is meek and put-upon, the other too cool, so confidant. Simon gets called “Stanley” by his boss and is told by one co-worker, “no offense, mate, but you’re a bit of a non-person”. And though there are plans hatched and played out, as Simon hopes to get closer to copy-girl Hannah (Wasikowska) and James aims to get by doing sweet-fa that’s almost entirely not the point of the film. The plot is ultimately of less interest – beyond servicing the tale of the novella – than the way the film looks and feels, a lurking paranoia, an almost quaint uneasiness about it, and the wonderful inclusion of Lynch-like song-choice sequences, soundtrack-as-prop, little breakaway moments as the dream-feel seeps through the story to the point, almost, of winning confusion.
Co-written by Ayoade and Avi Korine (Harmony’s Brother), The Double is memorable for its aesthetic, the lighting choices, the sets, the score and source music, the steam-punk reinvention of an old tale that’s been told before – and of course it’s fitting that Ayoade has borrowed from so many sources and influences, referencing and doffing the cap, it’s a film called The Double, it’s about copies and the worlds set up within worlds, and the look-over-your-shoulder feeling that pervades.
It’s not quite a work of genius – but at times it feels very close.