In the movie Enemy, a man named Adam discovers that his doppelganger is a professor living in another city. After stalking and watching him, Adam becomes obsessed with the idea of being identical to this other man. Towards the film’s end, it is revealed that both men are clones of one another. The final scene shows Adam’s original self dying in a car accident while his clone lives on. What does this enigmatic ending mean for the audience?
A film by the trendy Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve is definitely not recommended for those who prefer a clear, straightforward plot. “Enemy (2013) is a film with hidden meanings and philosophical content. Roman Polanski, David Lynch, Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick – parallels with the masterpieces of the great masters are appropriate. The director himself designated the genre as a documentary film about the subconscious.
Chaos is order to be deciphered.
The phrase appears in the first shots of the picture and, from the very beginning, sets the vector for the viewer. If one correctly deciphers the psychological thriller puzzle, it turns out that what is happening on the screen is not nonsense and chaos but events that have structure and order. Another thing is that a movie of this kind usually has more than one interpretation. The director allows the audience to search for the true meaning, think for themselves, to enjoy solving the mystery.\
At the end of the screening, the attentive viewer has a number of questions, the answers to which are not evident at all. The attempt to look for an explanation of the plot in Jose Saramago’s novel “The Double” is unlikely to succeed since the story shown by D. Villeneuve is not an exact adaptation of the source. The suspenseful film is like a matryoshka doll: discovering one meaning, you see that there is something else inside. And so it goes on and on.
What did the spider mean in Enemy?
This question is easier to clarify, as an alternative version is unlikely. Most probably, the Freudian interpretation of the spider is played out in the film: a symbol of the maternal or generally feminine, instead of the image of an angry woman-mother. The spider, or more accurately, the spider woman, lures him into her web/non-freedom. For Adam, the spider woman is first of all his mother, then his wife (the mother-to-be). Other women and the metropolis are also similar to the spider in Adam’s eyes: dangerous, controlling every step, depriving him of his freedom.
Spiders, large and small, appear more than once in the movie. A spider on a platter at the club: the protagonist, entangled in the web of life’s difficulties, has a subconscious desire to get “on a platter” a solution to all his problems. The naked woman at the club (the mistress) threatens to crush the spider, i.e., to gain the upper hand over his pregnant wife.
The massive spider over the city symbolizes the spider-mother, who has suppressed her son all her life, knew better than what her child loved and wanted, and dictated the rules of behavior, tastes, and activities. A monster of colossal size appears in the film after a single scene with the mother. A copy of Louise Bourgeois’ famous sculpture called “Maman” is used in the picture.
In the final scene: in the eyes of the character, Helen turns into a giant spider, which the husband is not at all surprised by. For him, his wife has looked exactly like that for a long time.
In addition, throughout the narration, there are associations with cobwebs: wires in the sky of the big city intertwine and form a corresponding picture; the car window after a car crash cracks so that the viewers see the same picture.
The movie protagonist has nowhere to go – he sees his own fears everywhere, and there is no way to remain adequate.
Adam/Anthony – one or two
The most important question of the film is: Who is the character’s twin? The director throws the audience a lot of details, which, when juxtaposed, can be a puzzle together.
- The torn photograph the historian finds in his home is exactly the same as the one on the shelf in the actor and Helen’s house.
- The glasses the professor bought end up on Anthony’s desk.
- A key labeled “unica,” meaning “the only one,” is also a hint.
There are clues in the main character’s dialogues with his wife and mother. The mother openly declares to Adam that he is the only son, and the wife wonders how the classes went.
What’s happening? I think you know, and you know everything.
The conclusion suggests itself: the protagonist of the narrative is the same character, and Adam and Anthony are two different identities of the same person suffering from a dissociative disorder.
The Action – Reality or Fantasy
Further transcriptions are no longer so unambiguous. For example, is Mary’s mistress a fiction or a real woman? The underground club is more like a subconscious image, showing the character’s repressed sexual desires.
It is quite admissible that most of the story takes place only in the hero’s sick imagination. The accident and Anthony’s death with his mistress occur as Adam reconciles with his wife. The hero crosses his negative Mr. Hyde out of his life and agrees to return to his family, saying goodbye to his freedom.
However, immediately there is the coveted key to the door to the secret club, but the temptation is still too great.
Time: Where Does the Madness Start?
The chronology of the film is non-linear. What is the sequence of what happens on the screen, and at what point does the split of the character’s personality?
The following chain of events is the most plausible. The wife’s pregnancy provokes stress on the spouse, who is clearly not ready for such a turnaround. Fear of losing his freedom leads to his leaving home – a miserable new apartment, a mistress, his mother’s words: “I don’t understand how you can live like this. Then there is the car accident with the probable death of Mary, the injuries (the scar), and the mental pathology.
If we consider the version that the mistress and the accident are only
Adam’s fantasies, the trigger of the madness, can be considered the news of Helen’s pregnancy. That’s the period of pregnancy, that’s how long Anthony hasn’t shown up at the agency, and even the beard wasn’t even there six months ago.
Enemy: ending explained
Adam Bell, in his lectures, repeatedly suggests that all events in history tend to reoccur. And if the first time is a tragedy, the second time is a farce.
The lecturer is a vivid illustration of his thesis. The unfaithful husband, who has returned to his pregnant wife after a series of trials, is still unable to calm down. Having found the key, he is ready to flee the house, repeating his own mistakes over and over again. Not for the first time does he see the resentful/ angry Helen as an enormous spider not letting out of his web. There are relapses ahead, which will no longer be seen as a tragedy by the actors.
Both Mary and Helen understand that the one who is in the same house with them is not their boyfriend and husband. Mary takes this hard, because she notices the ring mark on the protagonist’s finger and realizes that she has been with a married man all this time. Since we already know that all this is not happening in the mind of Adam-Anthony, and that he does not have a split personality (which could also be considered as a plot twist, if not for the director’s remark), Mary’s anger becomes more justified.
The ending of the story begins to develop from the moment when Anthony and Mary have an accident. Then the hero decides who he wants to be and with whom to spend the rest of his days. This exemplary death of Anthony, along with Mary, suggests that he decided to put an end to this relationship once and for all. She also shows that the person that he once dreamed of and wanted to be is not at all suitable for him.
Helen is glad just because her husband is returning to her. The change in his behavior only says that he made an important decision for himself, which will turn his future life upside down.
He sees the image of a spider inside the room, precisely because he returns to the web again, to a place where he can no longer control the situation and himself is under someone else’s control.
The meaning of the film’s title immediately becomes clear. The protagonist has become his own enemy.
I hope I helped you find the meaning of the movie “The Enemy”, as well as understand its ending. If you have a different vision of the film, write your version in the comments.
The title of the film also implies several interpretations. In the context of the plot, the main character’s enemy can be both:
- Woman as the overwhelming, hostile, and frightening beginning. In the eyes of Adam – she is enemy number one.
- The city, which entangles man with a network of wires like a spider’s web.
- Adam/Anthony himself. The inadequate man is often the source of his own problems. The English proverb “Be one’s own enemy” is known in Russian as “You are your own enemy.
“Enemy” hidden meaning and plot explained
And yet, the main enemy of any man is his fears. For Adam, family is associated with control and dictatorship, and he tries to avoid responsibility by all means. This way of thinking prevents him from forming healthy relationships and eventually leads to the destruction of his consciousness.
It is not for nothing that there is the expression “web of fear.” Internal phobias and anxieties entangle the soul and become an obstacle to a successful life.
Perhaps this thought could be the main lesson of Denis Villeneuve’s difficult film story.
The essence and idea of the film “The Enemy” can be understood by the director’s comment: “I think this is a documentary about my subconscious – well, or about the subconscious of Jake Gyllenhaal’s character. This is a film about a hero who decides to leave his mistress in order to return to his pregnant wife. We are watching this story from the point of view of his subconscious.”
If we consider what is happening in the film with such a remark, then much becomes clear. In fact, there is only one hero. He leaves his wife for a mistress, with whom he does not feel as bad as with his wife, who has already managed to get bored with the order. He creates a new personality for himself – Adam, who is more gentle in character, but lives with a person who makes him feel more comfortable. But this is only the first time. Then he begins to understand that such a monotonous and gray life does not at all correspond to his desires and dreams.
In general, the first hints that all this is happening in the subconscious of the hero appear almost at the very beginning of the film. Adam’s mother leaves him messages that may suggest to an attentive viewer that the main character lives in some kind of illusion that he invented for himself. Hints of the same nature appear in Adam’s dialogue with his mother, when she says that it is time for him to leave his dreams of a career as a brilliant actor and start a normal life with a woman with whom, judging by the context, he is rapidly losing relations.
So, everything that happens on the screen is not even the fantasy of the protagonist, but rather his inner feelings associated with relationships with his wife and mistress. Neither with the first nor with the second does he feel comfortable enough and constantly creates new images and new character traits for himself, which he does not always withstand. His game of “actor” reaches such an absurdity that he ceases to distinguish the line between reality and his own experiences and fantasies.
Falling into this kind of trap, he cannot decide where he is better and who he will eventually remain.
The images of spiders, with which the film is oversaturated, hint once again that the hero has fallen into a web trap from which there is no way out. It is quite possible that it is in the image of a spider that Adam’s relationship to his mother is expressed, which does not allow him to live the way he wants and wants. Therefore, the image of a woman is always closely intertwined with the image of spiders, cobwebs and the general gloomy picture of what is happening on the screen.Adama himself often talks about control, but it is not clear whether he himself is trying to control his life or someone is doing it for him.
“Enemy” explained by director
Director Denis Villeneuve has explained the meaning of the movie “Enemy” as a reflection on the human condition and the idea that we all have a dark side that we try to keep hidden from the world. He has said that the film is about the duality of human nature and the struggle to understand and accept the darker parts of ourselves. He has also said that the film is about the idea that our subconscious mind is always at work and that we are not always in control of our thoughts and actions.
In an interview he said “It’s a movie about the idea of doppelgänger, which is a very ancient idea that talks about the fact that there’s something in us that we don’t want to face, that we don’t want to accept. It’s the idea that we are not alone in the world, and that we have a shadow that we don’t want to look at. And I think it’s a very powerful idea, because it’s something that we all have inside of us.”
Thank you for sharing. It helped me a lot to understand the story in its entirety. I did read Saramago’s book and still was unable to catch such insights.