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Stylish to the teeth!
on 14 April 2017
Richard Ayoade’s The Double (2013) has a nightmarish tang, but doesn’t set out to frighten, it substitutes creaky jump-scares, for utter, stupendous style.
Simon (Jesse Eisenberg) lives in a bureaucratic state, working in the bowels of a government office. Lonely, he daydreams about Hannah (Mia Wasikowska) and makes any excuse to contact her. One day, a new employee arrive, and Simon notices something remarkable about him, he’s identical to Simon in appearance. Yet, different in personality. Will Simon be consumed by his double James (Jesse Eisenberg)?
Some opinions may say that story has been sacrificed for style, and I agree. Yet this is a bold move by Ayoade and editors Chris Dickens and Nick Fenton. The tale of the double, the doppelgänger, the lookalike, the evil self, has been used many times in literature and film, so we don’t need spoon feeding with every plot point. Instead, the director and editors made a conscious decision to focus on style.
And style dazzles in every scene. It’s the atmospheric lighting, showing shadows and brightness in equal expressionistic quantities; it’s the metallic and dismal set design by Barbara Herman Skelding resembling theatre sets, reminding me of Michael Radford’s 1984 (1984) or even in a strange sense Lars von Trier’s Dogville (2003); its violent string instruments and deep piano pinging, created by Andrew Hewitt, creating a nervous audience, it’s all these things that give The Double its style.
The film is so stylish that we forget the exceptional special effects showing Eisenberg playing two different characters consuming the same screen. Like Brian Helgeland’s Legend (2015), which does the same, the effects are so amazing that we believe we’re watching two different actors.
The Double is made by experts in their respective fields. It is well worth a watch to experience exceptional stylistic choices.