Phobia Philms: ‘Enemy’
Original review of Enemy
Previous film: Halloween II
Aphenphosmphobia – fear of intimacy
There is a trope that I do not think is popular enough to be on tvtropes.com. but I think it should (if it isn’t already. I’m not bothering to check. I’d be there forever). I’d call it My Friend, Brain after the character Brain in the movie Brick. Brick was a high school set neo-noir from future Star Wars director, Rian Johnson. In it, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a teen outsider investigating his ex-girlfriend’s murder. Every so often he meets with his nerdy friend, nicknamed Brain, to go over the evidence. The idea is JGL is actually thinking, not talking to a friend. Brain is his actual brain, but because JGL sitting silently pondering the facts is a passive, boring act for a visual medium, they created a stand-in for him to interact with. Thus, it becomes active and entertaining. That is sort of what is happening in Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy as well.
Jake Gyllenhaal’s character is split into two people. That isn’t narratively clear. It is just part of my interpretation. Adam is a quiet passive man. He is without a flashy job or flashy clothes. He seems like a pushover with no friends, but he does have a gorgeous French friend-with-benefit. He doesn’t seem like the type of guy to have one of those. It seems more like Anthony’s style. He is a classic A-type aspiring actor, but he is handcuffed to a pregnant housewife. It is a classic grass is always greener scenario. Whenever Jake G is home, he is the hotshot dying to get away. When Jake G is with his mistress, he is quiet and sad, guilty he isn’t back with his wife.
Again, this is all subtext. As far as the story plays out, it is as if these two characters have genuinely found their creepy doppelgangers and are now blackmailing each other into trading their respective lives. Jake G is afraid of intimacy. He is afraid of getting too close to either of his lovers, but he is also afraid of giving them up altogether. The fear is played out in the visceral moments where intimacy is symbolized by…….spiders.
I know that sounds weird, but this movie is crawling with spiders. Well, three spiders in particular, one of which is lording over the city in general. The first one we see is being crushed under the very high heel of a high-end stripper that Anthony (the alpha one) sees in a very exclusive sex club (He needs a key to get in). Clearly, this is a sexual relationship with no intimacy, so intimacy is being willfully destroyed.
The third spider appears at the very end. Anthony tried to run off with the French mistress, and Adam tried to take Anthony’s place with his wife. The wife figures it out right away and accepts Adam as is, while Anthony and the French mistress get into a car accident and die. The subtext is Adam has re-committed to his wife and has given up his life with the mistress. This is when he gets a new key in the mail meant for Anthony. Adam takes one look at the key and is tempted yet again. He attempts to give his new wife a lame excuse to sneak out, but when he opens the door, he is face to face with a giant tarantula, a tarantula that retreats in fear. A subtle look of understanding, for better or worse, washes over Jake G’s face.
Spiders are the perfect symbol for intimacy because intimacy is ugly. I know there are a million rom-coms that try to tell you that intimacy is pretty and joyful, but those movies aren’t actually about intimacy. Intimacy is about opening yourself up and being vulnerable with another person. True vulnerability is about accepting ugliness. It is about being honest about every flaw and blemish, literal and metaphorical. Every errant zit and weird hair. Every pet peeve and tear trigger.And then being loved, not in spite of those things, but as a whole that is great than the sum of its parts. In that final moment of the film, Jake G’s wife had just got out of the shower and was probably naked. Being pregnant and generally depressed and exhausted the whole movie, she may not be at her absolute best, emotionally, psychologically, etc. Jake G is finally getting the opportunity to see her as she truly is for the first. That is a scary thing to throw yourself into: not just a genuine honest relationship, but the chance to not have our love returned because of that honesty.
Next time: Will Smith is lonely.