THE DOUBLE Blu-ray Review
Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel, on which this film is based, was loosely adapted by Bernardo Bertolucci as Partner in 1968, and this interpretation of the source material was attempted by Roman Polanski in 1996. As Polanski is one of the obvious influences on The Double’s director Richard Ayoade (Submarine) in his surreal approach to the film, there are also direct nods to Terry Gilliam and David Lynch.
Admiration and deception are two feelings that seem to play an equal role in the mind of Simon (Jesse Eisenberg). He just can’t help but feel inconsequential as he stares in his telescope at Hannah (Mia Wasikowska), the shining light in his world of isolation. Hannah is inaccessible for what Simon feels he could offer her, but the art that she’s discarding can be a reminder to him that insignificance is truly in the eyes of the beholder. No matter how timid his perspective of his surroundings become, it’s the indifference that’s reciprocated in his awkward interactions that will continue to fuel his discombobulated perception.
Ayoade still has aspirations for translating Dostoyevsky’s work through his own sensibilities and adds his own philosophical commentary on the ideology of succumbing to an usurper of one’s own manifestation. What really sets The Double apart from Denis Villeneuve’s film Enemy that was released earlier this year as well and based on a novel inspired by similar themes, is the overall tone. Both films obviously deal with similar dark subject matter and themes, but as Villeneuve went in a nightmarish direction that leaned towards David Cronenberg and Lynch, Ayoade channels Gilliam’s penchant for subversive humor. Though The Double takes a slightly more straightforward approach with the narrative, there’s plenty of ambiguity to allow the subtextual ideas that Avi Korine helped contribute to the screenplay resonate long after the experience is over.
David Crank’s (The Master) production design is minimalist and odd, which really compliments Erik Wilson’s experimental cinematography. The heavy use of Ryūkōka music layered throughout the film really provides an effective sense of dysphoria when bounced off of Wilson’s phantasmagoric canvas. A recurring element that left a strong impression on me, was the British horror sci-fi sit-com that features Paddy Considine as a retro action hero that seems to play consistently in the background during Simon’s solitary moments of self-reflection. All of these personal choices give the film it’s own identity, despite tipping it’s hat to other films that influenced Ayoade.
Dostoyevsky’s themes are just as relevant now and the desire to bring his ideas to a modern perspective is respectable in itself. The mass social consciousness is struggling in an ironically segregated and shifting climate, as it becomes more common for people to feel hollow inside despite being connected with others on such a large scale. The Double presents those ideas in an unorthodox way and it offers more significance to discovering how these philosophical issues can relate to everyone individually. Aoyode doesn’t completely succeed in making this film feel like a singular vision, but he’s certainly showcasing his talent in a way that generates anticipation for what this filmmaker decides to do next.
Magnolia has a wide array of special features on this Blu-ray release including “Creating The Double: The Story and Design” with producers Robin C. Fox and Amina Dasmal, co-writer Avi Korine, DP Erik Wilson, art director David Krank and director Ayoade discussing the evolution of the film and its visual design. “Behind the Scenes Comparisons” offers an interesting assembly of footage from various sets and locations that features an inset window occasionally appears in the corner, especially in the latter half, displaying the corresponding footage from the completed film. Interview with director Richard Ayoade is wide-ranging and his informative thoughts would have been a great asset if he recorded an audio commentary track to accompany the film. AXS TV: A Look at The Double is an AXS TV promo, in which the film’s trailer is expanded with interview clips that include segments with Jesse Eisenberg from an interview that isn’t included in the other extras.