Magazine article Screen International

The Double

Magazine article Screen International

The Double

Article excerpt

Dir/scr: Richard Ayoade. UK. 2013. 93mins

If Richard Ayoade drew inspiration from the French nouvelle vague for his admired directorial debut Submarine (2010), then his follow-up The Double seems to be drawn in equal parts from the deadpan world of Aki Kaurismaki, Terry Gilliam's flights of fancy and droll Czechoslovakian cinema from the 1960s.

Jesse Eisenberg slips with ease into the role of the neurotic Simon, an apologetic man in an ill-fitting suit forever fuming with exasperation.

Working with screenwriter Avi Korine, Ayoade has transformed Fyodor Dostoevsky's novella into a wildly eccentric, exhausting existential comedy that may attract a cult following but may seem odd and daunting for mainstream tastes. It represents a marketing challenge for any potential distributor.

Production designer David Crank has succeeded in creating a noirish, nightmare world that seems to exist out of time and place. The drab colour palette, flickering lights, inky shadows and Heath Robinson-style contraptions suggest somewhere behind the Iron Curtain during the 1950s. There are Bakelite telephones, record players and copying machines that fill vast, shabby rooms.

A warren of oppressive office cubicles provide a place where bureaucracy runs riot. The overall impression is of a world that belong to the pages of Franz Kafka rather than Dostoevsky.

Simon (Jesse Eisenberg) is a meek, mild-mannered worker who fails to make an impression on everyone he meets. He is undervalued at his office, ignored in social situations and desperately aware of his own inadequacies. The possibility that he could form a relationship with the beautiful Hannah (Mia Wasikowska) is beyond his wildest imagining.

His life is made even more complicated by the arrival of a doppelganger called James (Eisenberg) who crackles with all the charm and confidence that Simon lacks. He has soon won everyone's heart, including Hannah's, and created a massive identity crisis for the already fragile Simon. …

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