The Double, review: Richard Ayoade's surreal film makes for twice the fun
Screen adaptation of Dostoyevsky fiction combines deadpan humour with a real sense of existential terror
There have been few successful screen adaptations of Dostoyevsky’s fiction, but Richard Ayoade’s film bucks the trend.
It is a stylised and idiosyncratic affair, combining deadpan humour with a real sense of existential terror.
Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg) is a Josef K-like office worker who is a bit of “a non-person”. He is so unobtrusive that his boss (Wallace Shawn) recognises neither his name nor his contribution. He spends his evenings spying on his colleague Hannah (Mia Wasikowska), whose apartment is opposite his own.
The screenplay, co-written by Ayoade and Avi Korine (Harmony Korine’s brother), is deliberately vague about settings and period.
We’re not sure if we are in Europe or the US. The office seems modeled along Dickensian lines, with little booths for workers, and yet has 1970s-style computers and photocopying machines. It is darkly lit and full of old men who stare at Simon as if he is a lunatic.
Read more: Ayoade and Eisenberg team up for adaptation
Wasikowska on doppelgangers and developing survival instinct
James Simon (Eisenberg) is Simon’s doppelgänger. He is outspoken, confident with women and sure of his place in the world. In most films about “doubles,” such as the Jerry Lewis vehicle The Nutty Professor, the shy, retiring type dresses and behaves differently from the extrovert. Disconcertingly, here the doubles are mirror images of one another. They wear the same suit. They have the same gestures. It is a testament to Eisenberg’s skill that he is equally convincing as both.
Ayoade, meanwhile, successfully blends sitcom-style whimsy with images and ideas that are rich and disturbing.
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