Previously known for his role as a caricature inept nerd in the tongue-in-cheek sitcom The IT Crowd , Richard Ayoade has since successfully cut his teeth as a unique voice in British filmmaking. 2011’s Submarine is a bleak but joyful coming-of-age film, merging the deadpan quirk of Wes Anderson with the depths ofHarold and Maude and his own brand of darkness. His followup film The Double has been frequently criticised for being derivative of its inspirations such as Terry Gilliam’s Brazil . However, if you compare Submarine and The Double side by side, it’s clear that Ayoade has carved his own style and has claimed an atmosphere of his own that is thoroughly intriguing and exciting. It’s a type of filmmaking that’s rare these days to be able to get the smooth result Ayoade has achieved. It’s the making of a true auteur, he may not be interested in culture, but he’s interested in universal existential questions.
This special air is definitely achieved through the aesthetics above all. Immediately we are greeted to The Double with fractured lighting, hurriedly curving and flashing across Jesse Eisenberg’s face. The film is dark, much darker than Submarine. Meticulously designed settings are deliberately lit to avoid concerning themselves with characters and instead focus on stalagmites of light that they incidentally pass through. It creates a distinct mood, one foot in cinema and one ostensibly in the nature of theatre. However, it mostly does things theatre can’t do with dynamic editing and kinetic camerawork. Through the moodiness of its atmosphere comes a great sense of humour from the script that constantly had me rolling with laughter. Some jokes may be familiar, but its executed with such a sharp precision that it feels fresh. Even though the film may be bleak and blunt, its hilarity is what sticks.
Eisenberg plays the droppelgangers with icy precision. It’s rare to find a quiet, introverted character done right. I really related to his Simon with his hardly audible voice and hunched up hesitance. You don’t find non-confrontational characters that melt into the wall like how Eisenberg portrays. There’s such delicate subtleties in the way he carries himself so the two characters are easily distinguishable. However, the film can feel clumsy when it gets too busy with characters as Ayoade appears to panic and not know what to do with them all. Fortunately it swiftly focuses again and that’s where it shines in the smaller interactions. I did find myself getting confused at some point between the two Eisenbergs but I guess that highlights the films point about identity confusion. What potential do we have? What are we bound by? How do we feel real? The Double is a poignant, thoughtful but thoroughly entertaining film. I’m already in line for the next outing from Ayoade.