If watching The Double results in a trippy viewing experience that’s open to interpretation, then the film has done what its director and cast wanted it to do.
The film, directed by British comedic actor turned filmmaker Richard Ayoade, was intended to be a bit of a head-scratcher that left its audiences pondering what they just saw.
“You wouldn’t want anyone to have to have one specific [experience], then it feels like it’s medicine,” he said while discussing the film which is being shown at the Toronto International Film Festival.
“Any time you tell a story, people don’t interrupt and go, ‘Okay, so what did the table look like that you just mentioned?’ People don’t want that kind of specificity generally.”
The Double – based on a novella by Fyodor Dostoyevsky – tells the story of a meek, almost socially invisible man who suddenly finds his life upended when his doppelganger shows up.
Jesse Eisenberg plays both the mild-mannered Simon and his outgoing polar opposite James, while Mia Wasikowska plays Simon’s love interest – of course, she’s oblivious to his feelings – who is in danger of being lured away by the dashing James.
The entire film takes place in a dark, dystopian world which is unlike any real place or time – a setting that lent itself to keeping the film open to interpretation.
“There’s nothing more phoney than realism in a way,” Ayoade said. “It’s of limited interest to me, verisimilitude.”
The almost surreal aspects of the film, tempered with moments of sharp comic relief, were what attracted Wasikowska to the project.
“There’s so many ways that you can interpret it and I think each individual will have a different perspective on it,” she said of the film.
For the Australian actress, there were elements of the film which spoke very clearly to issues of self-awareness.
“I liked the idea that it’s about identity confusion in a way and also perception, how we’re perceived, how we perceive ourselves,” she said “During that process of finding who you are you can sometimes feel like two people.”
Eisenberg added that Ayoade’s directing style gave the film a distinct feel.
“Richard has a very specific aesthetic for the emotional life of the movie,” he said.
“The characters would have a rich emotional life in some ways, maybe even a heightened emotional life, because they’re living in this seemingly dystopian world.”
The Double will be released in Canada in the winter of 2014.
The Toronto International Film Festival runs through Sunday.