7 July 2014

He Stole My Face

When I was about thirteen years old, my class went on a school trip to see a musical stage production of Macbeth because firstly, we were studying it and secondly, the teachers hadn't realised that this version was a musical. To quickly review the show several years later... it was as fucking brilliantly shite as you might imagine. Anyway, when it came to the break or perhaps more likely as the show went on I thought I'd treat myself to at least some enjoyment by waltzing off and going for a piss. When in the toilets though, I heard people talking towards me and muttering and so after double checking that I hadn't prematurely and keenly got my knob out I turned to see what the problem was. In the corner there was a gang of lads from a different school that had also taken refuge from the play here and who were all kind of huddled together and looking at me. As it turned out and as they subsequently informed me, I looked just like a mate of theirs who I presumed must be a pretty good looking chap. The extent of our similarity was kind of confusing them as though he'd had a brother that he'd never told them about. Anyway, before we could end our brief encounter so that I could get on with my pissing, the friend in question just happened to pop in too and fuck me, they weren't wrong. Like- I swear to God that looking at this guy was like just looking at myself in a mirror. I was shocked. Admittedly he was shorter and fat, so it was more like looking at myself in a circus mirror but his mates did certainly still have a point. Anyway, that's basically all that happened to me and is I suppose the end of the story. I managed to enjoy my cheeky slash and then get back to the play although now with the added comfort of knowing that for the rest of my life I'd definitely be more attractive that at least one other human on this planet. Gutted for him.

So anyway, from that slightly non-story we get to Richard Ayoade's recent adaptation of Dostoyevsky's novel The Double. The film tells the story of Simon, a young, jittery, shy little fuck who goes to work one day and discovers a new staff member being introduced to everybody. Nothing odd about that I suppose except for the fact that this new guy, James, looks and sounds exactly like Simon does and due to how little attention people pay him, nobody else has noticed. To make matters even worse this, new chap is basically the better version of him in every social way possible. Within one day of working there, James has already made more friends than Simon's managed in seven years. Effectively what you have here is the unconfident Jessie Eisenberg of Zombieland teaming up and battling the arrogant Jessie Eisenberg of The Social Network with the film being like a Jessie Eisenberg Avengers style cross-over movie. Oh, and just to add a bit of sex to the film, Simon fancies his neighbour Mia Wasikowska who, due to his crippling shyness, he's been trying to woo only by treating her to some slightly light stalking... as you do. Sadly for him, not fucking girls isn't a problem that his doppelgänger James seems to have. All films need conflict and I suppose ‘is Jessie Eisenberg going to sleep with a girl behind Jessie Eisenberg's back?’ is certainly an interesting one.

Welcome to this week's Spot The Difference competition!
I'd seen Richard Ayoade's previous film Submarine and obviously thought it was great although I should probably see it again just because everybody seemed to love it more than I did. I think that I'd had it bigged it up for me a little too much and in the end I couldn't quite see past the Adrian Mole/Wes Anderson-iness of it all. I take responsibility for that though so if you've not seen Submarine then go check it out because it really is great. Fuck me, I'm like a PR man for films sometimes. Anyway, I really, really loved The Double too although again, I think the issue might be that it reminded me a little too much of a few other things. The office in which most of the film takes place is basically the exact same design as the one in Brazil with a lot of the other sets having a ram-shackled Gilliamesque feel to them, too. I know Ayoade is probably getting sick of comments like that but firstly it's not like he'll read this and secondly I suppose the easiest way to stop people comparing your film to Brazil is to not make a film that looks like Brazil. Anyway, there's quite a cool Lynchian thing going on with the soundtrack here as well with the haunting sounds of winds and the banging of radiators being fairly reminiscent of Eraserhead. Although, unlike Eraserhead, the radiators here only bang and are not also home to a small fat cheeked woman who likes to have a little sing-song. As well as Lynch though, this atmosphere also kind of reminded me of Barton Fink with a sense of dread being created by things as innocent as the sound of a fly buzzing or the peeling of wallpaper. Basically, the feeling of horror isn't created by any actual horror but by simply replicating the terrifying ambience of a Manchester Travelodge.

On top of those, I suppose the one other film in The Double's DNA must be David Cronenberg's classic film, Dead Ringers which features two amazing performances from both Jeremy Irons and also Jeremy Irons. Both Dead Ringers and The Double tell the story of two identical men who basically share the one life between them. One is smart, the other confident, but neither can live without the other. Although not to spoil either film, I will say that The Double doesn't end with a scene in which a conscious patient is ripped to pieces by specifically designed gynaecological equipment... well, not unless there was a post-credits sting that I forgot to stick around for anyway. However perhaps this comparison is more a case of bad timing for The Double than anything else in kind of the same was as what happened to John Carter. Obviously Ayoade's film is based on the book by Dostoyevsky which I'm reliably informed by Wikipedia was first published in 1846 and therefore very slightly pre-dated Dead Ringers by about one hundred and forty two years. Now I honestly don't know this for sure so if anybody knows Cronenberg then I'd appreciate you asking him for me, but I reckon he must have read and taken some inspiration from that book for his film. Also if you do know David Cronenberg then PLEASE LET ME MEET HIM! Meh.. fuck you! Anyway, so I guess this situation is kind of like how people slagged of John Carter for being too like Star Wars when Lucas himself was fairly open about the fact that he'd also pilfered a few things from the original 1917 book that Carter was based on. Like I say I could be wrong on that but having face-planted myself into research on Cronenberg and his films a few months ago, like a fucking massive geek, I'd be seriously surprised if Dostoyevsky's novel hadn't influenced him in some way. In which case, I guess the only thing Ayoade could have done to retain the originality of the themes of his film is to simply have gotten off his arse and made it twenty-six years earlier to ensure he got there first. But you know... that's laziness for you!    

Anyway, speaking of themes, I'm sure there's a million scholars or clichéd looking, speccy brain-bods out there who have deconstructed the book into oblivion but you know, fuck them because here's my attempt. Now… for me the film is all about loneliness, the misery of existence and learning how to become more confident and in control of your life. Although they say that the best films reflect back at you the baggage that you bring to them, so if the boffins are scoffing at my interpretation, well like I say, fuck you because as a grim, world hating chap who spends too much time alone, that's basically what I got from it. Whether the second more confident Eisenberg is real or not I suppose, for me, is irrelevant with their whole battle simply being metaphorical of the internal struggle that the original one is fighting on his own anyway. There's a speech about halfway into this film in which Eisenberg talks about hating himself for his lack of confidence and self-imposed loneliness which, to be fair, is pretty heartbreaking... and for a certain type of grim but amazingly good-looking blog writer, kind of relatable. In case it's not obvious, I suppose it's also worth mentioning just how great Eisenberg is in these two roles proving at last that the Oscar nominated Actor of The Social Network is at the very least as talented as the young Lindsey Lohan of The Parent Trap fame.  Credit should also go to Mia Wasikowska who is also as good in this as she was in Stoker. In fact, after now seeing her play two slightly cooky characters in both this and Stoker, I think she's carving a pretty solid niche for herself as an actress who plays characters that are as complicated and weird as her fucking surname.

To be fair.. this is how I meet women, too!
Anyway, I suppose it is a little bit of a problem that this film is so similar to a few others but I still loved it. There's a difference between taking inspiration from movies of a similar mindset and just ripping them off wholesale kind of like how Tarantino does. Ayoade has taken various different ingredients and made his version of a cake whereas Tarantino tends to just steal somebody else's cake and then enjoy being called a genius for it. So yeah, Brazil plus Barton Fink plus Dead Ringers basically equals The Double but it's still very good. Sure, his first film was quite Wes Anderson-y and his second is quite Gilliam-y, but there's still something reminiscent about the two films that must be Ayoade's touch. Maybe it's his dry, deadpan sense of humour, maybe it's the handheld type camera movements through a film that's quite self-aware. Or maybe it’s the fact that The Double basically features the entire fucking cast of Submarine... who knows? Either way, I know this film was genuinely really good and I can't wait to see what Ayoade does next. In the meantime I might go and track down my doppelgänger from Macbeth and convince him to toss me off. I'm going through a dry spell right now and I'm convinced it can't be gay if I just pretend it's me doing it to myself... and that little suggestion my friends, is why I am not an estimated Russian author. Goodbye.


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