Last month, a trailer for Canadian director Denis Villeneueve’s post-Prisoners effort, Enemy, premiered online and introduced audiences to the existential conflict at the center of the film. Today, Villeneuve, his crew, and his leading man – Jake Gyllenhaal, teaming up once more with Villeneueve after working with him on Prisoners – each in turn discuss the technical demands of bringing the film to life in the above featurette, while also discussing the film’s thematic intentions. Whether your interests lie in either behind-the-scenes operations or philosophical musings, the clip is well worth a watch.
For those unaware of Enemy‘s basic conceit, it’s elegantly simple: two physically indistinguishable men, Adam and Anthony (both portrayed by Gyllenhaal in a dual role), each discover the existence of the other, kicking off a spiraling crisis of identity and individuality as they struggle with the startling revelation. As the story progresses, the threads of their lives intertwine in complex, ostensibly subversive ways; the film’s title alone should provide as much a hint as necessary about what eventually transpires between its twin protagonists.
The featurette doesn’t go much into detail as far as plot is concerned, though; it sticks to what audiences need to know about Enemy going in. That’s not to say that Villeneuve, Gyllenhaal, and producer Niv Fichman don’t have their own thoughts to offer on the movie’s message; as Fichman puts it, Enemy is about “the disintegration of a man,” while Gyllenhaal believes that none of us exist as just one person at all times. (Which may possibly give more insight into Enemy‘s twists and turns than meets the eye.)
Heady stuff, for sure, but there’s something reassuring in hearing these ideas addressed head-on by Enemy‘s participants. For all of its intellectual challenges, though, the film is perhaps first and foremost an exercise in performance and photography. How can an actor engage in an intimately shot tete-a-tete with themselves? How does a cameraman successfully go about capturing that kind of confrontation on camera?
As tricky as the questions appear at a glance, the answers are deceptively simple: with clever resourcefulness. Villeneuve and cinematographer Nicholas Bolduc didn’t reinvent the wheel to film the scenes where Adam and Anthony cross swords, so to speak, but as the featurette shows, they didn’t have to; they just had to be creative enough to find the easy, if a little low-tech, solution to overcoming Enemy‘s big FX hurdle.
Of course, for Villeneuve, Enemy is about acting more than it’s about special effects. This should be abundantly clear just by watching Gyllenhaal in the meager amount of footage we see here, however; for as little we’re able to glean of his performance, it looks like Villeneuve has yet again coaxed great work out of Gyllenhaal after his excellent turn in Prisoners.
Naturally, we’ll only know for certain once we see the film in its entirety, but the more that studio A24 pulls back the curtain on Enemy, the more compelling it appears.
Enemy opens in theaters on March 14th, 2014.
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