First off, there are few principal actors of any consequence, and there isn't much dialogue among any of them. Jake Gyllenhaal plays two roles: Adam, a college history teacher, and Anthony, a movie actor of minor roles. Adam has a girlfriend who occasionally stays at his apartment; Anthony has a wife, six months pregnant. Adam's mother (Isabella Rossellini) interacts with him in one brief scene.
What drives Javier Gullón's adaptation of José Saramago's novel is Adam's brooding, obsessive pursuit of Anthony, a man who looks exactly like him, Adam realizes, when he spots Anthony in a film. They even have the same scar. After quoting in his history class Hegel's comment that "the greatest world events happen twice," Adam seems intent on embodying it in his life.
The unified, inspired art direction casts its own mesmerizing spell. Bathed in yellows and browns, claustrophobic interior locations restrict characters' movements and our ability to see clearly. Villeneuve also makes the most of Toronto's architecture that engulfs mere humans and throws our perspective off balance. Equally appropriate, even the public transportation wires look like spider webs, a metaphor pursued throughout the film.
The success or failure of "Enemy" rests for viewers on Jake Gyllenhaal's shoulders. I find him sufficiently persuasive as both Adam and Anthony to sustain this high wire act of second-guessing. But as with Villeneuve's "Prisoners" and "Incendies," no one should expect a conventional narrative. Villeneuve's unique perspective pleases me for his daring to resist pat answers and his insisting often on leaving me in an uncomfortable place. At the Chase Park Plaza Cinemas.