Dark Comedy

‘Did he remind you of anyone?’ The Double.

thedoubleRight, for a start, I know I said it was unlikely that I was going to be ever writing about anything recent. I mean that’s mainly due to the rather problematic sieve-like nature of my mind, meaning that whatever new film is going to come out that I may want to have a little verbal think about… Well, written think, but that doesn’t sound as good… Isn’t likely to stay in my mind long enough for me to form any sort of valid opinion on it. But this, friends, is different. For I discovered, in that delicious fleeting moment of pure thought prior to shutting the door and walking down to the cinema, that there was a rather useful tool that I had neglected in all of my previous cinema ventures. The humble notepad. And what’s more, unlike the homemade popcorn I surreptitiously slipped in in my coat pockets (thank Dawkins for Parkas), it actually isn’t against cinema regulations. Which also adds a rather nice touch, I feel.

Anyhow, rather than divulging any further into my notepad adventures, I believe I should probably get on and review this thing. While as much information as I can remember about it still remains in the mindbox. Right. So, for a start, how about a brief synopsis. As the title suggests, the film revolves around the life of a man who has recently come to meet his doppelganger, a double, a man that looks exactly like him in every way. But is far from identical in personality. They are effectively two halves – you have Simon James, the timid and anxious, invisible employee. And then his indistinguishable new friend, James Simon, the confident womaniser who seems hell-bent on Simon’s destruction. And then to complete the trio we meet the woman of Simon’s dreams, Hannah, who lives across the way from him and has been his conquest for too long. This is picked up on by James which starts the beginning of a series of events, masterminded by James, all set on abusing Simon, finally making him realise they are part of the same person and that one or other of them needs to face destruction to secure the survival of the other. So yes, a little bit of a tenuous storyline, but very clever nonetheless. As long as you can keep up. Which may have been a little bit of a struggle at points. But I’m sure that’s just me.

These characters are part of a new dystopian world where shadows and darkness seem to be the only decor, save for a photo of the Colonol¬†on the walls and from the beginning, the film has a rather 1984/Brazil feel. And, while I’m sure there are many other artistic nuances contained within the film, it is highly unlikely that I picked up on them. But purely on imagery, this film is top-notch. It evokes the anxiety of the characters – real people who are just trying to survive the harsh nature of this world they have been thrust into. With no choice and no way of getting out. The cinematography is highly atmospheric and provocative, focusing on the starkness and lack of humanity contained within the universe of the Double. It gives it a classic feel, rather like Submarine. Yes, there are fewer primary colours. Well, a general lack of colour anywhere, but in terms of how it was filmed, anyone with knowledge of Submarine would be able to recognise Ayoade’s post-debut directorial input. Put simply, he just seems to know how to make beautiful and visually interesting films. It truly is stunning, especially considered that the colour scheme is mainly set on the varying tones of beige and grey that can be achieved.

What’s more is it’s been made in such a way that even though it features a somewhat realistic view of a dystopian world, it still manages to have a rather large injection of dark humour, both in its script and in its cast. The characters really add to it, which yes, sounds obvious, but is so true. Every single one is there with a function, and it seems no moment is wasted in getting the story across to the audience. The casting can’t have been difficult for Ayoade, especially considering that most of them come from either the IT Crowd or Submarine itself. But every part is played beautifully, with the right level of humour so as not to make the film completely dreary and lifeless. The Double thus fulfills its genre of Dark Comedy perfectly. It is funny, laugh-out-loud at moments, but on every laugh, you can’t help but feel that the rather sinister nature of the film has just been taken up a notch. I mean there are really strange moments where you’re sure that you shouldn’t be laughing at all. For example, prior to the film really reaching its climax, we witness more than a minor breakdown from Simon who literally starts yelling gibberish while brandishing a synthetic arm at James and I was almost in tears. Which, looking back, it’s more disturbing than funny. Ahem.

However, I feel it must be mentioned that the Double is a tad let down by its ending. Which may have left more than a little to be desired. I don’t know. I just felt that following the general build-up which had characterised the whole film, the ending could have been cleaner. But, then again, I think that it was made like this with a purpose, which while I found it disappointing probably does resonate a little more with audiences of a more philosophical bent who are likely to be able to think through the motives of having such a non-ending. It feels like the film is meant to be really coming to something – Simon has worked out that him and James are intrinsically linked so much so that one of them needs to die in order to get rid of the misery of life that they have been facing. Thus, he devises a scheme in which he feels he can survive, while killing James. Which I feel I cannot divulge for fear of spoilers. My apologies. ¬†Sufficed to say, the film just ends up without us ever really finding out what happened, which does sometimes work – I mean I really admire a film that can pull off a non-ending (Inception, Black Swan, Shutter Island etc), but I feel here that the concept was taken a little too far. We, as an audience, are just left with a tad too little, meaning that we struggle to piece it back on the rest of the film. Personally I felt there were too many questions left with no answers, which in all was just more disappointing than mysterious. Especially considering the previous caliber of the film up to that point.

So, overall, I would definitely recommend the Double to anyone who enjoys slightly complicated, dark yet humorous thrillers. Wow, what a genre. But yes, it is very good. But maybe, if you want a better ending, you should simply stop it before being able to see the last five minutes. Then, the mystery will at least feel like less of a cover-up and more of a real mystery. I don’t know, it just tails off in such a way as I found it hard not to be disappointed. Oh, and Jesse Eisenburg’s mal-fitting suit jacket is also a tad annoying. But still, for the rest of the film, it’s a definite must-see. And I know I’ll get it as soon as it comes out. And probably completely rewrite this when I finally understand it.