Modern Cinema: Open For Interpretation


Two new DVD/Blu-ray releases that push the boundaries.

It’s hard to find a film that sticks with you several days after you see it. This is the case with two recent new releases on DVD/ Blu-ray . First up is Enemy from Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Incendies). Enemy stars Jake Gyllenhaal as our troubled protagonist Adam. Adam is a college professor who is currently in the middle of teaching his students about totalitarian regimes, an obsession of his. Now let’s just say that Enemy is based on a book by Spanish author Jose Saramago called The Double. On the surface Enemy seems to be another evil twin or doppelgänger plot. Not all true. Adam eventually discovers that there is a man who looks just like him that is a film actor. The actor’s name is Anthony and leads a very different life. This leads Adam to confront the double which leads the film to its mind blowing end.


The fascinating fact about Enemy is that is was shot before another film Gyllenhaal made with Villeneuve called Prisoners. Prisoners saw a wide theatrical release along with critical praise late last year but Enemy saw just a limited release from the distributor early this year. Why? I believe the distributor believed that Enemy is over the heads of most American movie goers. Which it is in many ways. Enemy gets under your skin in a Kafkaesque way.


Throughout the picture Villeneuve uses spiders both real and imaginary to symbolize what Saramago strongly conveyed in his book. A strict political message about the recurrence of totalitarian regimes in the history of civilization. A theme the author revisits in his books. Villeneuve uses imagery to convey that undertone. An experimental path that I applaud. I know this film leaves the average moviegoer confused but I found it to be one of the best releases in the last year.


Next is the latest film by director Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast, Birth) called Under The Skin. Skin stars Scarlett Johansson as an alien disguised as a human who abducts men after she seduces them. The plot sounds pretty simple … right ? No … No … No. First of all this is hands down Johansson’s edgiest performance. She’s been on a stray path for a while doing mostly action films and romantic comedies so I applaud the change in direction. I couldn’t stop thinking about the 1977 film The Man Who Fell To Earth when watching Skin unfold . On the same level as the Nicolas Roeg film starring David Bowie, Under the Skin is an experimental science fiction film with erotic overtones. Just when you feel that you get the plot Glazer pulls you in deeper giving you an uneasy viewing. Glazer spent 10 years developing Under The Skin and it really pays off. In one scene Johansson seduces a lonely deformed man that lives in the shadows of a Scottish town. No prosthetic make up was used here. Glazer actually uses a physically deformed actor to do the scene with Johansson.


The entire film is like a dream disguised as a nightmare. The dialog is minimal. The story is told mostly through imagery. Imagery so unique that it sticks with you for days after viewing.


With both of these films, I believe they are open for interpretation. Only a few films in the last decade have stuck with me this way. Perhaps Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth or Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain. Films that reveal more to you on multiple viewings. I hope this type of contemporary film making continues. I’m tired of forgetting about a film after I leave the theater. Good filmmaking is supposed to haunt you. I think Kafka could have been a good filmmaker.

– Jeff Roll

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1 Response to Modern Cinema: Open For Interpretation

  1. In regards to under the skin
    I accidentally saw Scarlett when I went to the Belmont theater in Nashville for the circuit benders ball. I originally wanted to see Vivian maier but could not stop watching the screen. At the movies end it left an ominous linger. I was afraid of the world. And since I was on a road trip all I could do was sleep in my car for the duration of the day after seeing under the skin. I think it was an impactful movie.

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