Pondering the “Enemy”: A TIFF13 masterpiece opens in Buffalo

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I was unable to see Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy at last September’s Toronto International Film Festival, sadly. I had a conflict, with Visitors screening at the same time. This was disappointing, since I very much liked the director’s other TIFF entry, Prisoners, and also because the buzz out of TIFF was that Enemy was something extraordinary — and extraordinarily strange.

Correct on both counts. Enemy is a staggering success, a Cronenberg-ian mystery with the finest performance(s) of actor Jake Gyllenhaal’s career and the creepiest final scene in film history.

Yep, I went there. And I am not the first. Here is how critic David Ehrlich put it in his TIFF review:

Denis Villeneuve’s “Enemy” might have the scariest ending of any film ever made. While such a proclamation no doubt seems both wildly hyperbolic and uselessly broad (how to compare the sudden revulsion of “Don’t Look Now”’s final shots with the icy, germinating dread imbued into the haunting last shot of a film like “The White Ribbon”?), viewers of certain predispositions and phobias will invariably sign off on such a statement as “Enemy” abruptly cuts to its closing titles.

I could not agree more. It is so surprising, so utterly gobsmacking, that I literally gasped, and jumped. Days after seeing the film, I am still pondering it.

But that is true of the film itself, as well, the story of a college professor who spots his doppelganger in the background of a film. As he investigates, we learn more about him — and the actor who is like him in every way.

Perhaps it seems like cop-out to say one should not know any more than this going in, but I believe that to be true. The element of surprise is very important here.

What I can say is that this adaptation of José Saramago’s novel The Double shoots Toronto as I have never seen it before; features a wonderful supporting performance from Antiviral/Cosmopolis/A Dangerous Method star Sarah Gadon; costars (and slightly underuses) one of my favorite actresses, Melanie (“Shoshannnnna!”) Laurent; and is the kind of film that, like Lost Highway, inspires theorizing, contemplation, and fear.

Enemy joins Grand Budapest Hotel and Life Father, Like Son as the best film so far this year. It’s a must-see that some will truly hate. But others, like me, will be mesmerized. And if you want to talk about that ending afterwards, you know where to find me.