Have you ever had that gut-wrenching feeling of believing you just aren’t good enough? The perfectionist inside you, brainwashing you into thinking ‘what is the point…I’m not as good as her/him anyway…’? Well, if there’s any hope in convincing us insecure and torturously over analytical lot that it’s all just in our heads, then self-deprecating yet extremely talented Richard Ayoade is definitely our man. And what better casting to star in his new film The Double than Jessie Eisenberg; an actor who also proves you don’t need to be an extrovert to be outstandingly successful.
Many of us continually put ourselves down. I know I wouldn’t allow anyone to insult me the way I casually devour myself with negativity. People are their own worst enemies, and Ayoade literally transports the old clichéd saying: ‘the only thing holding you back is you’ onto screen, in a unique and distinctively dark approach.
Although Ayoade sincerely believes his directing skills aren’t that great, his adaption of Dostoyevsky’s The Double renders a visually impressive dystopian future. In this world, compliant Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg) lives a monotonous life. Unnoticed by his work colleagues, and his photocopy girl crush (Mia Wasikowska), he simply exists as just another insignificant face. His obsessive feelings towards his co-worker are the only optimism within his depressing existence. However, his awkward romantic attempts get him nowhere and he feels powerless to change his timid ways. Simon’s mundane routine takes a bizarre turn with the arrival of James Simon (also Eisenberg), who is his exact physical double, but everything Simon is not. The confidently suave alter ego hurls him into a psychological nightmare, while no one else notices the resemblance, and James begins to attain and accomplish everything Simon wishes he could. Ayoade’s previous ties with the innovative effects artists at London’s Framestore invite their smart mirroring techniques to double the protagonist up on screen. Eisenberg does an impressive job in the portrayal of two distinctly contrasting personalities.
Shot at nights, in an abandoned business estate and underground for three months, Ayoade crafts a claustrophobic and unidentifiable place and time. The visual effects cleverly depict oppressively endless buildings, although the structures are in reality no taller than four levels high.We feel trapped in a humdrum existence of lonely apartment blocks and narrow office corridors, which magnify the feelings of anguish and frustration. Suicide is a recurring theme yet the film’s black humour shines through just enough to stop things becoming unbearably bleak. Whilst the dialogue is everything you might hope from an Ayoade film, ranging from subtly hilarious to wonderfully strange, the heart of the film lies in the ominous aesthetics. Many amateur film makers wonder why their attempts don’t convey a cinematic feel, and a common answer to that is lighting. The characters are bathed in a dim but sickly yellow light, akin to that of a seedy motel lobby, and as the film’s reality spins further into ambiguity the characters are cast in a post-apocalyptic mist. The soundtrack similarly is haunting and shrill, almost as if the world is creaking and on the brink of falling apart.
Watching The Double is like being plunged into the deepest depths of the human psyche for an hour and a half, face to face with the crippling fears of underachievement and self-doubt. It also illustrates a world so disconnected from real life, that it sucks you in and obliges you to feel equally isolated. However, Ayoade neutralizes the unsettling gloominess with the ideal amount of humour, while Jesse Eisenberg seems more than capable of taking on the British sarcasm the film is drenched in. We may all at times feel inadequate, and wish we could be the complete opposite of who we are. However, Richard Ayoade need not worry about his flaws, as his bold directorial style apparent within The Double is a quiet triumph.