In 2014, Richard Ayoade presented us with his latest directing project: The Double, an artistic representation of the 1846 Dostoyevsky novel.
The film follows the unnoticed and withdrawn Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg), a data-input manager living in a dull, grey and repetitive world who is hopelessly in love with a girl named Hannah (Mia Wasikowska). His monotonous life is disrupted when an apparent doppelgänger arrives at the office, going by the name of James Simon, who is everything Simon is yet is also uninhibited, confident and successful.
1984-esque, The Double is disjointed, ambiguous and confrontational. There are sinister elements and laugh-out-loud moments that come within mere minutes of each other. Being a keen artist and appreciator of creative skill made it easy for me to fall in love with this film, despite knowing very little about film production. I noticed Ayoade’s personal directing focus on the hands of the characters in shot, as well as a brilliant attention to colour and light which enabled the picture to remain interesting, despite often portraying quite bland subject matter, and was effectively used to develop the meta-narrative, and relay the themes of the novel visually. On top of this, it featured many fantastic actors including Tim Key, Chris Morris, Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige and Chris O’Dowd. I was destined to love this film.
It’s protagonist is apologetic but the production certainly is not. Both the reality and the speculation are loud and brash, making for an almost uncomfortable watch; but the visuals are so beautiful, I couldn’t possibly look away. A construction of oxymorons: the meek nature of Eisenberg contrasts starkly with his outspoken double; the frequent humour breaks away from themes of mental breakdown and dissociation; the jarring string music cuts the flowing imagery throughout. A lady on Twitter once described The Double as “poetry in brown and grey” and now I understand exactly what she means.
There are many parallels to be drawn between The Double and Jon McGregor’s wonderful novel: If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, being that both seem to have little in the way of a plot but a vast amount of modifying description and detail. I have spoken to Jon about how his book could be raised to a whole new level of magnificence if it were to be placed in Ayoade’s creative hands, as the visuals are described so effectively already and the themes and tone seem to fall perfectly in line with the director’s preference.
But future projects aside, Ayoade has presented us with a true art installation of a film and one that sparks an immediate conversation that can only develop with time. This is one of the rare films that I could watch over and over again.