Are you an imposter of yourself?
Personally I’m a big fan of allowing the world to affect you, as long as you are in control of your world that is. In particular your job, which whilst spending many hours a day, and potentially many years, is no doubt going to have some influence on your development as a human being. Probably a wise idea to do something you like then eh? There’s no doubt at all that Richard Ayoade was hugely positively influenced by his work on ‘The I.T. Crowd’ playing the nerdy character Moss, which increasingly seems not all that far from Richard himself.
Ayoade returns adding yet another sterling director role to his C.V., following up from the absolute nuanced comedy gem that was ‘Submarine’ (2010), taking pretty much the entire cast from that (and some very choice cameos), but this time striping all the magical innocent teen colour and creating a bleak stale dystopian corporate world in ’The Double’ (2013), itself an adaptation of a Dostoevsky novella (100% Moss material indeed).
Taking on the role(s) of the title is Jesse Eisenberg (Now You See Me, 2013, The Social Network) as carbon copy cubicle office worker Simon James, slowly plodding through life, living, but not alive. Surrounded by bleakness, suicide, unrequited love, loneliness and obscurity to the extent that he’s not even recognised by his own relations. It doesn’t sound that appealing, but you would be quite wrong.
As if an answer to a Faustian pact made with the devil at a rainy bus stop, a force of inspiration arrives on desolate the office scene. A very familiar force in that Simon’s doppelgänger (James Simon, Jesse once again) strolls in, it’s him, but more, more everything. More charisma, confidence, fun, success, popularity, sex appeal, and drive. Your upgraded self, how great is that? Of course it’s not. Our friends and family tolerate us in our lives as they are used to us, how would we feel if we met ourselves? Probably wouldn’t be mates for long. Particularly when they instantly become more popular than you, even though it is you.
After an initial awkwardness Simon realises the positive influence he can garner from his physical Id, and jumps on board the roller-coaster, well more ghost train to be honest.
Increasingly they begin to have an effect on each others lives in positive and of course negatively. Both in recognition of environments suppressing our true characters and the potential of manipulation and behaving with impunity.
Clearly influenced by directors such as David Lynch, Terry Gilliam and with Kafkaesque influences too, it’s stunningly presented/art directed, and with a fantastic soundscape in both music and sound effects throughout, it really is a beautifully dark movie. It’s not all dour though, there is tons of constant wonderful dark humour even in the tiniest of moments, particularly in glimpses of a tv show called ‘The Replicator’ that Simon is obsessed with where Paddy Considine plays the lead hero character. And the many moments of comedy only help to contrast the destitution.
There are plenty of great extras on the DVD too, and it was with absolute pleasure to see the extended opening credits and a scene from ‘The Replicator’, which I’d love to see being made into a series in itself (it’s deliberately terrible both in acting and look). There’s also a making of, cut scenes and extended scenes.
It’s been a great past year for intelligent, obtuse, idiosyncratic, but excellent movies that fill the mind with inspiration and flush out the superhero fatigued cob webs, and ‘The Double’ rightly stands very proud (if sheepishly) amongst them. And as Richard has found his multiple muses to help inspire his work, he really is fast becoming one of the most talented/individual directors around.
The Double is out now on DVD and VOD.