Several years on from his directorial debut with Submarine, Richard Ayoade of The IT Crowd fame has brought alive the difficult text of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novella The Double by translating it to the big-screen.
Starring Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska, this black comedy explores the life of Simon James – a timid young man scratching out a meagre existence in an impervious world. During the day, he works for a mysterious organisation where he completes menial tasks and is largely ignored. In the evenings, he spends his time visiting his scornful mother in a nursing home and spying on the woman of his dreams: copy girl Hannah, who lives in an apartment opposite his.
The film takes an expected twist when Simon is driven to extremes after finding out his life has been usurped by his doppelganger – James Simon – a character best described as a Jungian shadow, or rather, Simon’s subconscious. James is both Simon’s exact physical double and his opposite – a confident, charismatic young man with substance who is noticed by others. They initially become friends as James adopts a sympathetic façade to guide an awkward Simon towards winning over Hannah’s heart. However, to Simon’s horror, it soon becomes apparent that James has infiltrated and is taking over his life.
If you had Richard Ayoade type-cast as the comedic, socially awkward nerd Moss whom he portrays in The IT Crowd, then you will be surprised by his creativity and daring foray into this dark subject matter. With cinematography reminiscent of The Hudsucker Proxy, sweeping the viewer into a claustrophobic world, this film unleashes the psychological depths of repression. The Double is a surreal, all-consuming portrayal of the human psyche that has been forced to adapt in a largely skewed world. Do not expect to leave this film without a visceral sense of loneliness and introspective questions churning to spew forth.
REVIEW SCORE: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)