Eli Hayes’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Chaos is order yet undeciphered."
Well, that was a mind distorter if there ever was one. I don't think I can remember having left a theater so confused before. I turned to the man next to me, who I noticed had also gone to see the same film, and noticed that he was shaking his head. "What did you think of it?," I asked him. "Not good... not good at all." And I totally understood where he was coming from, because who could have been prepared for a film (or an ending, for that matter) like that?
Yet I was not on the same page; I loved Enemy. I LOVED it. Maybe it has to do with my appreciation for ambiguous cinema - cinema that you can re-visit throughout your entire life, each time in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the film - or maybe it has to do with the fact that Enemy didn't pull any punches. Contemporary cinema, especially in the psychological thriller genre, has conditioned us to expect twist endings and thorough explanations, especially when you're watching a film like Enemy. I was so glad that Denis Villeneuve didn't make the mistake of playing into what was expected of him. Enemy could have ended a thousand different ways, but it ended the way that it did for a reason: those of you who have seen it, consider the phrase, "the elephant in the room," and maybe that will help you find your own interpretation. The important thing is that Villeneuve has crafted a film which allows for his audience to find their own interpretation, and I appreciate that. I appreciate that immensely.
So here's mine:
Jake Gyllenhaal gives a career-topping performance/performances(?) in Enemy, a film which is essentially about a man's personal/internal struggles. There is only one man in this film, one protagonist, though the surface of the film would like you to believe that there are two. Don't be fooled, Enemy will be a much easier film to understand - or, at least, to try to understand - if you consider both Anthony and Adam to be the same human being. There are some serious erotic undertones to the movie, which compels me to believe that the main character may be a man fighting with issues of infidelity, but again, this is only speculation. One can only speculate about Enemy, because it remains unclear till the very end, much like a pair of masterpieces from the past, Ingmar Bergman's Persona and Krzysztof Kieslowski's The Double Life of Veronique, two of my favorite films of all-time.
Villeneuve plays with time quite fascinatingly in this film, though to understand the structure of time, you'll need to pay close attention to one particular monologue in the film, quite close to the beginning. The protagonist explains that, throughout history, the most important events repeat themselves - they occur twice - and that the 21st century may very well be a repeat of the 20th century. Considering this, I have to believe that the structure of time in Enemy is actually quite non-linear. Rather than the events of the film occurring simultaneously, they are actually occurring one after another (or at least some of them are)... and though the order of these events remains unclear as well, try to keep in mind that Mary's role both begins and ends during the course of the protagonist's relationship with his wife. Unfortunately, I can't really expand upon this point right now, because doing so would give too much away about the content and mystery of the film, but consider the non-linear structure of time when viewing Enemy, and maybe that will clear up a bit of confusion. The fact that "the most important events occurring twice" is a theme of this movie is actually quite scary once you've got at least a moderate understanding of the metaphors involved; this theme, along with the film's horrifying ending, lead me to believe that Adam may make the same mistakes again that he had made in the past.
Pay close attention to the scenes in which Adam's mother is involved, for they will help you in your attempt to decipher what is real, and what is occurring within Adam's mind. When something happens in ones life that changes their course of existence, this something is not easily forgotten. Its remains will sprinkle their way throughout the future, as an every-so-often reminder of one's mistakes. What mistakes could Adam have possibly made in the past? And what are Helen's suspicions? These are questions which exist to help guide you in figuring out the enigma that is Denis Villeneuve's Enemy.
The direction, the acting, the cinematography, the editing, the script - I couldn't have asked for better pieces of a perfect puzzle. There is one particularly sequences towards the end of the film, a shocking one I might add, that contains some wonderful symbolism: shattered glass as an arachnid's web, and a man's attempt to kill off the actions of his past which haunt him (and may always haunt him).
The ultimate question is, if you had to give a shape to your demons, if you had to provide them with a physical form, might they take the form of a spider? Maybe not, but Adam's surely do.
One's sins are not easily forgotten.