Thursday, June 26, 2014

"Enemy": The Stupidity of Surrealist Spiders

Now Available on DVD and Blu-Ray

Despite the name of this blog, I don’t actually think of myself as pretentious.  Pretentious means that you think you’re saying something profound when really it is pedestrian.  I only try to share my opinions so that you as a readership can make informed viewing choices about films.  A film like Enemy, however, is the exact definition of pretentious.  It is a film that is an accumulation of mildly interesting parts that don’t add up to anything of substance, and the Lynchian mood the film tries to evoke falls flat on its face because of its own red herrings.  I have no idea what to make of this movie, and though I think that may be what the director’s intention was, I don’t think that makes for good film making.  It only makes for a waste of ninety minutes on what should have been clever writing leading to a twist-ending, but instead focuses on shock value masquerading as surrealism.

I’m going to spoil some of the plot elements of this one, but seeing as the film doesn’t make a whole lot of sense anyway, I don’t think that’s much of a problem.  However, you have been warned.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays two identical men who discover one another through a series of chance circumstances.  One is a history professor with a girlfriend, and the other is a bit movie actor with a pregnant wife.  Clues are gradually revealed that the two men share more than just appearances, as no one else ever sees the both of them at the same time, they share identical self-portraits and scars, and yet have diametrically opposed preferences toward blueberries.  The film heavily implies that the two are the same person and that whoever is the real one is mentally unstable.  However, the timelines of the two protagonists don’t line up so that that’s actually a possibility by the end of the movie.  The film seems to revel in its own contradictory nature, forcing the audience to keep guessing throughout the entire experience.  And this would be fine, if only the film offered any sort of closure, a satisfactory resolution, or even a hint as to what counts as real in the film's world, and the film's bizarre cutaways only exacerbate the matter.

See, there’s also this weird fascination with giant spiders throughout the film, with shots devoted to CG creations of arachnids wandering a cityscape just kinda showing up for a few seconds, while I just sit there and wonder “What the fuck am I seeing?”  And it all comes to a head where, when you finally think that maybe some closure is just around the corner, the final shot of the film is of a giant spider screaming at a confused Gyllenhaal.  I just don’t know what significance that’s supposed to have.  I turned off my Blu-Ray player and just stared blankly at the screen, trying to figure out what the hell the film was trying to tell me.  I have nothing.  The pieces of the puzzle don’t add up, and I’m left feeling confused and angry.

And maybe that’s the point.  The film persistently has a dour and disturbing air about it, so that you feel this ominous sense of foreboding, even as you question whether the twist is really as obvious as it seems (even though the real eight-legged "twist" is straight out of left field).  I think the intention of the film is to evoke a feeling from its audience, and it’s not actually about providing a coherent narrative.  However, that begs the question: Why present an avant-garde piece in the guise of a narrative?  There’s only so far a director can betray the expectations of their audience before overstepping the line into pretentious self-congratulation for pulling one over on us.  This film crosses that line.  Don’t waste your time on Enemy.  I’ve already spoiled the "twist" ending for you, and if that doesn’t convince you that this is a waste of time, I don’t know what will.

Have a favorite example of surrealist film done well?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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