Enemy (2013): Not Your Usual Spider Movie

Enemy (2013): Not Your Usual Spider Movie

From the creative direction of a yet-to-be-household-name Denis Villeneuve, emerges Enemy, a mind-altering film released in 2013 that is as surreal as it is haunting, repeatedly hammering us with the question, who are we, really?

It’s not exactly the spidey film I was expecting, but I guess it’s much better.


Adam Bell, a lonely and disillusioned history professor leading a routine life in Toronto, is the subject of the film Enemy. By coincidence, he discovers a movie that stars Anthony Clair, an actor who looks very similar to him. This finding intrigues and disturbs Adam, who develops a burning desire to meet his twin.

Adam calls Anthony as his obsession grows, which has unsettling and ominous results. Helen, Anthony's expectant wife, too finds herself caught up in the uncomfortable web of deceit and secret.

As they each struggle with their identities, relationships, and the unsettling awareness that their lives are interwoven in ways they cannot completely fathom, the lines separating their lives start to blur.

What better cast than Jake Gyllenhaal? Two Gake Gyllenhaal!

At the centre of "Enemy" is Jake Gyllenhaal's outstanding performance, which masterfully captures not one, but two uncannily similar individuals. 

It's impossible to look away from Gyllenhaal's subtle portrayals of Adam Bell, a morose and reserved history professor, and Anthony Clair, a lovely but mysterious actor. 

The way he embodies these two characters with subtle body language changes and mannerisms, it’s hard not to feel awed and terrified that they’re indeed the same people. 

Unsettling Visuals

The mood that Denis Villeneuve creates in Enemy is both disturbing and captivating.

Every scene has an odd feel because of the yellow-tinged cinematography. Familiar spaces such as the university classroom and campus felt more and more alienating due to this effect. 

And of course, the spiders. I definitely did a WTF when I saw the huge spider on top of the city.

Horror in the Mundane 

There is tension permeating every scene of Enemy, thanks to the contrast between routine, everyday existence and the looming threat of disaster. 

We are forced to face the difficult realities that lie under the surface of our own lives by the dissonance between the ordinary and the remarkable.

Figure It Out Yourself

The plot of "Enemy" is purposefully cryptic, luring viewers into a complex riddle of identity and nihilism.

Some viewers may find the movie's obscure symbolism and ambiguous finale frustrating, yet it is this uncertainty that encourages countless discussions and interpretations.

Soundtrack, Damn

Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans' unsettling soundtrack for "Enemy" lends an added dimension of discomfort to the film. The soundtrack merges flawlessly with the visuals, and becomes part of its unsettling mood. 

Spiders, Femininity, and Danger

So what the heck is up with spiders? They appear at the beginning of the film, where a spider is getting crushed by heels. Then there’s the colossal spider hovering over the city. And the final scene where Helen turns into a spider. 

One possible explanation is that spiders are an overarching metaphor, quite literally like the spider hovering over the city, something that permeates every aspect of the protagonist’s life. As Vulture reports, this is what the director said about the spiders:

To be honest with you, it’s not in the book, it’s not in the novel, and I’m not sure if Saramago would’ve been happy with the idea of having something that is so surrealistic in his naturalistic environment that he created in the novel. It’s an image that I found that was a pretty hypnotic and profound [way] to express something about femininity that I was looking to express in one image.

The spiders are connected to danger and femininity, and together, feminine danger. It could represent Adam’s fear of women, his inability to form intimate relationships with them, and his willingness to escape the trappings of marriage and fatherhood.

Spiders here, thus, could mirror his state of mind and the price of conformity, of being in control of his own life.