EDIT: Don’t forget to watch the comment box for more discussions about ‘Enemy’

WARNING HEAVY SPOILERS AHEAD.

So you finished watching ‘Enemy’ and you are probably thinking……WTF?! For some days now I’ve been analyzing the movie scene by scene, and I think I’ve come to an accurate knowledge what it all actually meant. So if you have some time, I will explain to you piece by piece in the actual chronological order about the movie, plus I’m also going to explain the Spiders in the movie at the end of the analysis.


First of all, let me tell you this. I was impressed by the awesome soundtrack this movie had that I decided to buy it on iTunes. When I opened the .pdf that was in the album, I noticed that the director (Denis Villeneuve) wrote a recommendation note and in it he wrote this.

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With that I can confirm that Adam and Anthony is without a doubt, the same person. No, there is no double, there is just one and that one person is ‘Anthony’.

What I meant with ‘the actual chronological order’ is that the movie is edited as a puzzle, not every scene is in the place as it should be, which is why the movie misleads you in a great way. Think of the movie Donnie Darko which isn’t also edited in a normal chronological order. This movie has two separate stories and is mixed together throughout the whole movie. What I will do is explain to you all the events of the movie in one actual timeline, which will explain my theory of Anthony being the only person that’s real. So sometimes I will refer the character as Adam/Anthony or Anthony/Adam. Whoever’s name is first is the actual character we are experiencing.

The Car Crash

The car crash is one of the final scenes of the movie, but is actually the very first scene of the actual reality story. Anthony and Mary (Melanie Laurent) meet up at the ‘Breezeway Inn’ in the same room where in the middle of the movie Anthony and Adam meet. While they are having sex, Mary notices the ring mark on Anthony’s hand and finds out he is actually married. Mary freaks out and leaves, but eventually gets in the car with Anthony. They start to argue which turns into a heavy car accident. This is where Anthony gets his scar on his chest. I’ve read a lot of interpretations of the movie, but never was the scar actually explained, I can’t believe everybody missed that.

This is also the moment Helen (Sarah Gadon) discovers he had a mistress, and the subject comes back later when they are talking in the kitchen and she asks “Are you seeing her again?” referring to Mary, a scene that we see in the beginning of the movie where we meet them for the first time.

Adam Bell

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The accident is the cause of Anthony having a split identity. He invents Adam Bell in his mind, which before everything was probably a pseudonym he used. Some said that the last name Bell had something to do with the Bellhop of the movie……that’s just stupid, so forget that.  So after the accident, Helen finds out, but somehow they still come back together. Probably because she tells him that she’s pregnant, and they decide to give there relationship another try. Anthony doesn’t go to his talent agency anymore for over 6 months and starts a job as a History Teacher, maybe using his pseudonym or that is a point where the movie tries to mislead you. This is where Anthony starts to lose his mind completely. His fear of commitment brought him to madness and he starts to fantasize about being someone else, being Adam Bell.

Side note: Remember in Inception where DiCaprio’s character Cobb is haunted by his wife in his dreams and he reveals to Ariadne his memories of her, you know the elevator scene where every floor has a memory of the wife. The difference with Cobb and Anthony is that Cobb can control his subconscious, but his problem being that he can’t let go. Anthony can’t let go of his urges either, and he can’t control his subconscious and it starts to be a complete mess and that’s why he is starting to lose his shit and doesn’t know what reality is and what’s not. 

Dictatorship

This is where the lectures comes in. He teaches the class about dictatorship and the first lines of the actual movie are extremely important. He starts off with…

Adam (Anthony): “Control, it’s all about control.”

After that he starts to discuss dictatorships, which is also an important element of the movie. He explains them that they censored any means of individual expression. And then he tells the class something else that’s very important;

Adam: “It is important to remember this, that this is a pattern that repeats itself, throughout history”

The next scene we see a glimpse at the tram wires around the city that connect “like a spiderweb”. (Don’t worry, I will explain the spiders and spiderwebs in the movie very soon). Next we see Adam walking past a wall, where we can see painting of a multiple man giving a fascist salute, while in the centre we see a man painted in red. This actually shows that Anthony is completely lost in his subconcious.

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Defiance against rule, dictatorships and the fear of commitment are all themes of Enemy. It makes it all clear through dialogue but mostly through visual imagery.

When there’s a will, there’s a way

Now a colleague at work recommends him a movie. He goes to rent this movie, at a local video store. The song in the video store is actually relevant to the story. The song is called “The Cheater” by Bob Kuban & The In Men. It’s about a man who has no business being with women, because he can’t control his urges to sleep around.

New Apartment/Mary’s back

Anthony as Adam buys a new apartment. We see what the mother was talking about in the voicemail in the beginning. We see that his apartment is pretty much empty, with just a kitchen, chair, laptop and a bed. He is sitting at the kitchen and closes his eyes when the doorbell rings. It is Mary, apparently months after the accident they start to see each other again, and this is the first time since the accident as she asks him how he’s doing. This is followed by scenes of him repeating the lecture of dictatorship and intercutting with scenes of him having more and more sex with Mary. But… all those scenes that comes next with him being with Mary in the apartment, is actually all the same day. They actually never see each other again after that.  This is Anthony constantly hitting a wall in his subconscious. He can’t let go. Why do you think we intercut scenes with Anthony/Adam being back at school and lecturing again about the same subject? Remember this line?

Adam: “It is important to remember this, that this is a pattern that repeats itself, throughout history”

Take out all those scenes with Mary and put them together. You’ll see, it is all the same day. It is also the same day when he is lecturing to the class. Because if you look good, it is the same class as before. Why would he repeat the lecture to the same class? In the first scene of the classroom he also finishes with “See you next week”. This means that Anthony is just constantely repeating himself in his mind. Remember we are watching this movie through his subconcious mind as the director himself confirmed. If all those times he is actually meeting with Mary, wouldn’t his wife get suspicious of him again why he always is out of the house. Now later that day he remembered he had rented the movie. He starts to watch it normally the first time and then goes to tease Mary in to sex. Mary eventually realizes that he is still to aggresive and can’t stand it anymore and leaves.

Anthony/Adam goes to sleep and dreams about the movie, where we see him play the bellhop in the movie. Anthony remembers something that he left at the agency and starts to go there as Adam who just did research on the bellhop in the film (this actual scene is not the scene you see in the movie, i’ll explain it later..). He has sunglasses on and drives to the agency where the guard recognizes him, as Anthony. Then he says that he is supposed to pick up something, which there actually is. I don’t think this is a coincidence at all. It just confirms more and more that he is Anthony. Only in this scene he was going back and forth as Anthony and Adam.

“Adam” starts to get obsessed with his doppelganger and goes to the address that was on the envelope. He stops at a telephone booth and calls to Anthony’s house where Helen picks up and recognizes Anthony’s voice. She is confused why her husband is suddenly acting like someone else.

Back at the Saint Claire house

Anthony imagines a conversation with “Adam” on the phone. His wife Helen starts the ‘interrogation’ by asking who was on the phone. He replies with it was that guy who he referred to as a stalker and a fan of a film he was in and that he wanted to meet up. She laughs like it was a joke but then she gets suspicious. He walks to the bedroom to write Adam’s name down and under it that he is a history teacher, when he walks back in to the kitchen Helen asks again who was on the phone? He replies again with it was the same guy, only now he sounds not convincing enough. Helen gets more suspicious and says “Are you lying to me?” and later she adds “Are you seeing her? Are you seeing her again?” As I said before she is referring to Mary. Anthony breaks and yells “It was a man! It was a man!” He leaves and the shot reveals for the first time in the movie that Helen is pregnant. We are now officially 6 months further after the accident. Helen tries to call back but the phones shows “Unknown Caller”.

School of Adam?

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So Helen starts to play detective and in the evening picks the piece of paper and searches Adam Bell up. She looks for Adam Bell at the school that turns into a shocking conclusion to her to see her husband walking out of the building towards a bench, acting different and looking different. She sits next to him, and Adam/Anthony sees her and talks to her, asking if she’s alright and how many months she’s pregnant, in which she replies “six”. Adam then heads back to class, and Helen calls her husband on the phone. When Adam disappears from the shot, Anthony/Adam picks up the phone. Now his wife is completely confused.

I think you know

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Next scene Helen is at the house confused and scared. Anthony/Adam walks in supposedly from a run and asks why she didn’t get the blueberries he liked so much and needs. Helen walks away. Later that evening she tells him what she did and says “what’s happening?” and when he says I don’t know what you’re talking about, she says “I think you know”She is now slowly discovering that her husbands mind is split, he is gone insane.

I also noticed this in the scene;

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Notice the sunglasses at the table there. Mind-blowing right?

Stalker

Anthony starts stalking Mary and follows her to her work. He starting stalking here not because of Adam, but because of the night she went away, because he can’t let her go. He goes back home and tells his wife that the guy won’t bother them again. He walks to the bathroom and says “Fuck” feeling that he is losing his mistress. Then a close up at Helen, who is still completely confused by her husband and wondering what he just did and been doing those six months.

The Meetup

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Anthony meets Adam at the hotel that he and his mistress went the night of the crash. Now at the beginning I said that the movie has two separate stories and is mixed together throughout the whole movie. This is the point where the stories cross each other. We see Anthony who is normal and calm (first story) and Adam who is stressed out and panicking (second story, which I will explain later in this analysis).

Mother

After the meet-up Adam/Anthony goes to visit his mother. Her mother played by Isabella Rosellini tells him that it is complete nonesense that there is no possibility of a twin-brother. Now she says two very important lines;

Mother: “You have enough trouble sticking with one woman don’t you?

and…

Mother: “You are my only son, I am you’re only mother. You have a respectable job, a nice apartment and since we are being frank here. I think you should quit that fantasy being a third-rate movie actor.”

This catches him completely off guard, because he is thinking as Adam. What we can also add to the confirmation that Anthony is the real person, is when before the mother said that line she offered him blueberries. Which Adam responds with “I don’t like Blueberries” Of course you do says the mother. Remember back at the Saint Claire’s house that Anthony came home and desperately wanted blueberries….Yup there you have it.

So after this scene in the movie we see a huge freaking spider walking over Toronto. Don’t worry I didn’t forget about the spiders in the movie. I know it’s killing you but I’m almost at the point at explaining the spiders, hang on just a little bit more.

Adam at Saint Claire’s apartment

Adam/Anthony visits the apartment of the Saint Claire’s. The doorman downstairs recognizes him and opens the door for him. A man we recognize from the beginning of the movie at the sex club. He walks with him up to the apartment and in the elevator he tells him.

Doorman: “I can’t stop thinking about the other night. Can’t get it out of my head. I know I shouldn’t talk about this but… I’d love to go back.”

Obviously he is referring to the sex club we saw at the beginning of the movie. But that moment hasn’t happened yet in this timeline. He tells him that they changed the locks and send out new keys and that he thinks is not on the list. Adam/Anthony says he’ll see what he can do and walks to the apartment door, where Adam/Anthony walks to far from the door. The doorman opens and Adam/Anthony enters the apartment.

He walks around and observing everything. He looks in the closet and changes clothes, now looking like Anthony. He opens the fridge finds the blueberries, and then he finds the photograph of him and Helen which you know was torn at the beginning of the movie. Funny clue, next to the photo are some books, and one book reads ‘History in Reverse’ which I think was put there intentionaley. Now Helen comes home, Adam jumps getting ready for what’s coming. She sees him and says;

Helen: “What are you doing, I thought you were at your moms.”

This confuses him a lot, because he had his mind set as Adam when he was at his moms, now knowing that Anthony went there to he is starting to realize he may have gone insane. When Adam asks if she needed anything, Helen’s suspicions start. Adam/Anthony goes in to the bedroom and asks the same thing again, to which Helen responds if everythings okay with him. He says that he might think she needed something after being in the pool and you know because she’s 6 months pregnant, and here at this point the light goes on in Helen’s head and she starts to realize the husband is being different again, so she is going to put it on a test by saying “Come to bed”.

Enemy

She watches him closely, touches him and gets closer and then she asks “Did you have a good day at school?” This cathes Adam/Anthony off guard, but then Helen thinks he is not the other person again he is now Anthony, that’s why she finally says “Forget it”.

Now Anthony is starting to realize what he has actually done and starts to remember the beginning of all. He wakes up and is remembering how he is having sex with Mary and how she discovers he’s married and how they eventually got into a fight and had a car accident together. He starts crying at the couch in the living room. He finally realizes that he is gone insane and tells her “I’m sorry” and Anthony and Helen starts to make love.

Final scene of the FIRST storyline

The next morning, a radio broadcast seems to be reporting the accident but that is just a complete mislead point. Also the details were not told and Anthony/or Helen turns off the radio. He dresses up and finds the envelope that he got at the agency in his jacket. He opens the envelope revealing a key (which looks a lot like the key from Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Notorious’, but that’s irrelevant). So yes, that’s the key to the sex club we saw at the beginning of the movie. He stares at the key with a look of temptation and his mind starts to go reverse. Helen tells him that his mother called. He tells her okay and starts walking towards the living room to think of a way how he could get out of the house to go to that secret sex club. Helen goes from the shower to the bedroom and then Anthony asks if she has to do something tonight, because he thinks he has to go out. No response, Anthony walks over to the bedroom and….A huge freaking spider stands in front of him and it reacts in fear, aaaaannnnd the end.

The Spiders! 

I think now would be a good time to explain the spiders in the movie before following up on the second part story of the movie. Nobody saw that last scene coming, and it freaked me the hell out when I saw it for the first time (I don’t like spiders at all). So let me explain it to you what the meaning of it was. For start I am going to show you what the Denis Villenueve the director wrote in that Soundtrack recommendation.

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So yes, all the spiders in the movie represent…..women, or at least in the way that Anthony views them, who we know has a deep fear of commitment. The spiderwebs in the real world catch preys. The way Anthony sees it, is like being trapped in the marriage he is in and the responsibility of having a child, as well as remaining faithful. This all comes back to the constant references in the lecture Anthony was telling about dictatorship. He feels he is being unwillingly ruled. Also remember the huge spider walking over Toronto. There is a actual monument in Toronto with that same spider figure, called the Mother Spider. So it’s obvious that the huge spider represents his mother basically because it was shown after the mother meeting. It doesn’t have to be, but i’m going with it anyway since it only makes my point about the spiders more clear. Also the dream where he has a spider-headed woman walking past him is a clue and at that scene you see both Adam and Anthony waking up from the same dream, which confirms my theory about being 2 storylines.

The ending of the actual movie is not the ending of the story at all. The beginning of the movie is actually the beginning of the actual ending of the story. Anthony goes to the sex club and watches woman masturbating themselves and then later revealing a spider, when a woman in high heels walks up and is about to squash the poor spider. Now going back to the ending of the first storyline, where we find out that his wife has changed into a huge freaking spider. You know why the spider reacts in fear of him? Because the spider/wife feels she is being squashed/cheated on again. That’s what Anthony realizes when he is watching the woman squashing it. Now some more evidence that helps me making all those points….do you remember;

  • The song in the video store “The Cheater”
  • The poster of “Attack of the 50 foot Woman”
  • The fascist painting on the wall

Now that I told you the meaning of spiders, let me go further with the second story of the movie with the actual ending. Don’t worry it’s shorter than the first.

The Second Story (The Actual Ending)

So what about that torn photo you see throughout the movie. That torn photo is actually my key evidence that there is a second story after the ending of the actual movie. I have to admit, it is the only object in the movie that haunted me the most and it made me crazy. In every way I tried to think of a theory, I would hit a wall because of that object. I couldn’t place it anywhere at all. Until I discovered the movie was edited in a complete different chronologically order.

So what happens after that sex club scene. It’s obvious that they get divorced and Anthony moves out of the apartment and moves into his other apartment. He becomes Adam, but he is really losing it now. He watches the movie “Where there’s a will there’s a way” again and starts to get paranoid. He repeats the pattern. He looks up the actors profile of Daniel Saint Claire. Searches through his moving boxes and finds the torn photo. Which in the actual movie we see intact at the end when he enters the apartment. Then everything starts again.

Adam: “It is important to remember this, that this is a pattern that repeats itself, throughout history”

Now later on after all the shit happens to him and is going crazy again to have found his ‘double’ we get a new scene in the classroom (No, I didn’t forgot about that one). He comes in rushing and clearly confused about last night, and then quickly out of his head he tells them something different;

Adam: “It was Hegel who said that all the greatest world events happen twice, and then Karl Marx added, the first time is a tragedy and the second time is a farce.”

Later he adds something that slowely fades away from the sound and is hard to hear, but it’s definitely relevant…

Adam: “Now there is a interesting observation, A creative act of memory, to remember something, to remember someone…(inaudible)…it’s always coloured by emotions”

You see what they did there. They actually show a different day a different lecture that actually explains his situation right now. Remember that thing I said about when Mary is in his new apartment. That it was all the same day and it was just a pattern that was repeating in his head. He explained that then to the classroom. Now he is explaining again for the second storyline. He tells them that all the greatest events, meaning his event, happen twice. The guy has gone completely nuts, but he knows very well the situation he is in. He meets up with the double at the motel walking behind a sexy prostitute, looking at her with temptation, showing that he still has those urges. So the moment were the two meet, is basically the ending, from that point on we don’t follow it further anymore as we are going to follow Anthony’s storyline from that point. The second storyline can go anywhere that is completely open to interpretation. But now I can actually confirm in my theory that…

This movie is a never ending cycle.

I know man, it’s a complete mindfuck. You can still be an optimist and think that everything will work out for him when he comes that point of discovering it all again, if that makes you feel better. I’ll leave it open for now.

My upmost respect to Spanish screenwriter Javier Guillón and Canadian director Denis Villenueve for making this absolute masterpiece of cinema. It’s not a movie for everybody that is for sure, and I’m disappointed that the movie didn’t do well in the box office. But I think in the later years when Denis Villeneuve makes a name for himself, this movie will come back and have its glory it deserves.

Again you probably won’t notice at the first watch through, but isn’t that the magic of movies? That it interests you so much that you want to find out more and then suddenly clues starts to show up you’ve never seen before and you start to look or listen at the smallest things and you are puzzling around and putting piece by piece together. To me, that’s magic, that’s mind-blowing, that’s talent and that’s definitely intentionally done. I hoped you enjoyed this analysis. I’m sure not everyone agrees with it. I’m also sure that I didn’t get everything right. But I’m glad I have my own understanding of the movie now, I can finally sleep. I maybe missed some things and if you saw something I completely missed. Please do tell. I’m curious to know.

Enemy definitely joins the list of being one of my favourite movies ever, and is my absolute favourite of 2014. I’m curious to see if Under The Skin by Jonathan Glazer and Interstellar by Christopher Nolan is going to blow my mind, and I’m sure it will. We will see what happens further in 2014.

Thanks for reading.

~Dani

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Written by Dani

Gallego/Español 🇪🇸 | Writer & Director for Film | Editor in Chief of http://Shoton35.com | Supporter of Celta de Vigo | Fan of DC Comics & Vertigo

231 comments

  1. Okay, my only problem with this explanation is, when Anthony was having sex with Mary and she freaked out about the ring tan lines, he said it was there before, she said “no it wasn’t”. Now if, according to your explanation, it was the first time they met, how would she know if it wasn’t there before?
    I’m more inclined to believe this whole thing was happening inside Adam’s head, he was mentally ending his cheater self by killing him off in his head. When he finally does kill him off and go back to “himself”, he sees his wife as a spider again, because it’s a pattern that repeats itself. I don’t know, this film could be anything but you made so many good points in this. x

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  2. Oh, boy 180 comments. I apologize that I will not wade through that.

    The theory is an attractive one, especially since it takes director notes from outside the main source. You’ve got two types of Very Clever Directors (VCDs): those who never say anything about their films (i.e. Clint Eastwood), and those who can’t help making comments, even or especially if they think they are being coy about it (i.e. Quentin Tarantino). If we establish that our VCD is Type II and not Type I, then the theory holds water.

    In the film, I thought the logical conclusion was that Adam and Anthony are the same person. The only thing that changes is their name and their wardrobe: they share the same hairstyle, waist size, scars, etc. They both speak of their mother, but only one mother is shown (not counting Helen). Presumably, they share dream states.

    That’s where I find the first problem with the film, is that it too easily shifts viewpoints. I don’t mean the Adam/Anthony shifts, which are genius, but the shifts to other characters, especially Helen, who do things Adam/Anthony would be unaware of. It seems that when we shift to what Helen is thinking, that triggers spiders – sometimes. It’s erratic. The non-linear story makes this even cloudier, although your explanation seems sound.

    So maybe: the film is all about Helen? And maybe she’s trying to cope with her imagination of what her husband does behind her back? If so, it would be a psychotic break, and the poor infant is in trouble. She’s got acute antepartum depression.

    Regardless my sticking point: how does one go from being an actor to a history teacher? if anything, it’s the other way around. You need credentials, peer review, and a demonstrated track record in classrooms as a teaching assistant before you can get that kind of job. Adam isn’t tenured, but you still need a Doctorate to teach at a University. A college you can get away with a Masters’, but we definitely see Adam at University.

    Helen more or less wills herself to see Anthony at the U. If she’s having a psychotic break, that’s how you could go from actor to professor in six months.

    This would in my mind, make your theory even more sound, however it would also cast the director as a first-class misogynist to be able to frame the film as the delusions of a suffering pregnant woman. Or maybe I am the misogynist for thinking of this? Either way, much too uncomfortable, and not at all the right way to deal with this issue. “Enemy” makes things worse, not better:often enough the hallmark of the Type II VCD.

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    1. He has always been a teacher, he does the movies on the side. Its part of his individual expression that he feel is being suppressen, by his wife and his mother.

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    2. I am sorry if I sound ignorant but how does portraying the delusions of a troubled pregnant woman make the director a misogynist? I did not see any damning disrespectful account of women in the movie.

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    3. Hi guys,

      Mothers voice mail tells that his house is a mess.
      During conversation with mother, she tells that he has a nice house. This + teared photo proves 2 timelines. What movie tells about Chaos is also adding something to this theory.
      What i didnt get is why Mary told she has never seen the ring thing when she first saw. And how did his teacher name become adam? Did Helen know anything about Adam Bell or she discovered when se visitted him?

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  3. One thing I’ve noticed that could be added to the analysis, a subtle self-referencing word-play on the names of the philosophers/women:
    1st, the wife, HELEN -> HEGEL
    2nd, the lover, MARx -> MARy

    And then during the history lecture he talks about the how the 2nd event repeats the 1st but it is a farce, which could be a symbolic reference to both of his relationships.

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  4. Thanks for your analysis. I love the work of Denis Villeneuve and Jake Gyllenhaal. I visit Toronto often and really wanted to like this movie. I thought the performance stunning but was pretty much left with a bad case of WTF? Your post helped me appreciate it a bit more, but not enough to watch it again. I could get that there was a descent into madness and the spider metaphor but I did not appreciate the disrupted chronology. I don’t mind thinking around a film (Memento, Inception) but this film required too much for my liking or perhaps it just made me feel stupid. Now I am going to check out your post on Under the Skin in order to appreciate that one too. That was another that was too arty for me. It along with Enemy and more recently Birdman didn’t have enough story for me to enjoy to make the struggle to understand it worth while.

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  5. Loved the movie but was totally perplexed, but a good explanation and I guess it is one of those movies that is not meant to be logical. I think I might attempt reading the book to compare.

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    1. As someone who’s read the book, I can tell you it won’t help (much). This movie is a (brilliant and insane) interpretation of the story. The novel itself, while maintaing the “same” general plot, is quite a different experience. I found it to be a bit slow during the first part, but then it picks up and becomes an amazing thriller of sorts.

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    1. I think there are 2 good explanations for this.

      1. He subconsciously knows Adam has had sex with his wife (because he has) and he’s using that as an excuse to take Adam’s girlfriend out.

      2. He doesn’t actually believe that Adam had sex with his wife. He’s simply throwing out a plausible accusation to Adam in order to manipulate him into letting him steal his girlfriend.

      My understanding of the timeline is not quite 100% just yet so I could be off.

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      1. I agree, but I think in a way, he’s annoyed that Adam has broken the “rules” and spoke to his wife on the phone, as Adam. He just can’t say that or even process directly so it manifests itself as jealousy.

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      2. I agree with you, although I think what is being expressed is that he’s annoyed Adam has broken the “rules” and spoken to his wife, as Adam.

        He just can’t/won’t process it like that so it manifests itself as jealously leading to his “revenge” being him breaking the rules himself and sleeping with Adam’s girlfriend.

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  6. “Enemy” left me with this feeling iCannot explain till now.. it’s just a work of art: an escape from the norm, so ethereal, weightless, reminds me of ryan gosling “drive” nice review though atleast on the spider thing…

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  7. There is a detail very important: There’s a scene where Adam is searching on Internet about Anthony and Adam gets a picture of Anthony. He inmediatly goes to a boxes and starts to look a picture, and that picture is splitted and only shows Adam’s face…this picture appears again at the final of the movie, when Adam is in the Anthony’s apartment but this picture is not splitted and shows to Anthony and his pregnant wife. So this indicates that this final scenes in fact belongs to the beginning of the story. My theory is that Anthony got insane or illness so he is just remembering to Helen. And he misses her..Thanks for your notes!

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  8. As you said, the movie looks like WTF! Only after I have read your analysis, I have started liking the movie… Thanks for your brilliant analysis.

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  9. If the telephone conversation between Anthony and Adam was supposedly imaginary, which gets overheard by Helen, how is it that when she checks his phone, the last call listed said “unknown caller”?

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    1. My interpretation: he literally did call from a public phone, but no one answered. When he was home with his wife, he had the same conversation (repetition is a key theme) on their phone, but no one was actually on the other end. Hence, the unknown caller id was the last number listed.

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      1. I’m thinking he really did have some crazed male fan phone him up. Just another fan as he does not go into much detail.

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  10. Thanks for that explanation. Much appreciated as I watched this movie last night and it’s been doing my head in.

    Your reasoning made sense but I’d had a different thought as I’d watched it. And, this is what it seemed to be to me: The scene at the beginning, in the seedy club, showed Adam/Anthony appearing to be nervous or afraid of the spider. He covers his face, peeping out from between his fingers just as you do when watching a really scary film, for example. Now, what sort of spider was it? Not your average house spider but it seemed to be a more dangerous, venomous one. So, I assumed, all along through the movie, that he’d been bitten by the spider and poisoned and the whole following, out of sequence saga was due to him hallucinating – possibly as he lay, dying. You know, the life flashing before your eyes, sort of thing. Also, dreams/hallucinations are all over the place, no sensible timelines, characters out of place and not behaving as usual, etc. His reaction of weary acceptance, in the closing scene, as he looked at the giant spider, was just indicative of how your mind can conjure up the weirdest of things in a dreamlike state and you just roll with it.

    I took it from the get go that Adam/Anthony were one and the same and that his mind was playing tricks. Makes as much sense as any other theory.

    I agree that the Mother’s comments about giving up the idea of acting means that he was a teacher who also wanted to become a successful actor but his Mom thought that he was fooling himself into thinking he could ever make a go of it. You toss around family discussions like this when you sleep – trying to come to terms with it all.

    Anyway, your explanation really made me think and just pondering what you said – and all the other 180 or so comments – has helped me come to some sort of understanding of this confusing storyline. To be honest, I hadn’t enjoyed the film very much as it seemed like too much hard work to figure it out. The pace reminded me of a spaghetti western, as did the colours. Don’t reckon that there was more than a page of dialogue in the whole thing. It was only afterwards, as I tried to describe it to my sister that the explaining of it made me think more deeply about its meaning and I think that I will watch it one more time. So, thanks for that, at least. I do feel encouraged to give it one more try. However, I still think that the whole story is in one man’s damaged mind.

    BTW, I was a teacher myself and know how the job almost tips you into insanity, anyway and an escape into your own mind does happen to a lot of staff who are invalided out of the job with mental breakdowns. And, lastly, I’m in the UK and patted myself on the back when I recognised Toronto. Thank you for reading/listening to my rambles.

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    1. When would he have been bitten, though? In my opinion none of the spiders are real, even the sex show one, they’re all symbolic.

      He was nervously looking through his fingers because the spider represented his wife, he knew his promiscuity would kill their relationship (the stripper squishing the spider) but he couldn’t stop himself from watching/indulging. Putting his face in his hands was his last attempt at not giving into temptation, which he fails at.

      Because of the disjointed nature of the film it can be difficult to follow along, but when he sees the “spider” at the end, that’s actually his naked wife (from the very beginning of the film, around a minute and half in), then he goes to the sex show and, metaphorically, the spider is squashed.

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    2. Interesting idea about the spider bite. Anything’s possible in this movie, especially since the spider is presented in the opening scene.

      Personally, I took the appearance of the spider on the covered dish to be a fantasy sequence, like all the other giant spiders. The sex club spider was not just big and unusual, it was larger and weirder than any known real-life spider. It might have been a real part of the show, but I thought not; first, because its appearance was so out of place as part of the live sex show; and second, because of the multiple fantasy spiders that appeared in the film, none of them intended to be taken as real. There is a great deal of overlapping of reality and fantasy/subconscious impressions in Enemy, and I think this was one more example.

      In keeping with the analysis posted here, I would take the covered dish spider as an unwelcome intrusion of Adam/Anthony’s uneasy feelings about women (represented by giant spiders throughout the film) into what was supposed to be an enjoyable debauch. He’s having a fun outing with the guys, watching faceless female sex performers, when suddenly, the “spider” appears and spoils everything.

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  11. Why are you so certain that the radio is a mislead point? Can you think of any other interpretation of the radio car crash announcement? From the analysis I’ve done myself, and from reading yours, it seems like that is the only part of the story that doesn’t hold up. Why would Villeneuve take such a well twisted plot and mess it up with that 5 second segment that isn’t really necessary according to your interpretation? Please let me know what you think. I’m doing a more scene oriented analysis of the film for a college film class I’m currently in. That’s the one thing that’s really bugging me as I try to interpret the parallel scenes just beforehand.

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    1. There was an accident, but not his. The report was a trigger for his memory of the car crash with Mary from 6 months earlier. He started thinking about Mary, which lead to thinking about sex with someone other than his wife, which lead to him making up an excuse to go to the sex show.

      “Chaos is order yet undeciphered”

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  12. Please can I have your thoughts on one aspect that is on my mind – when Helen finds the name Adam bell, and looks it up, she finds him listed as a lecturer and goes to the university. She appears distressed when she sees her husband, and on first watch the audience may think she is distressed because there is another man identical to her husband, however if he is just one person, are we to believe that he has registered for the job under a false name – which would be impossible in a school/uni – and that he goes out to work everyday in secret? It can’t be that the teaching occurs after they separate because she finds the note with Adam bell written on it while they are together. Does anyone have any ideas about this?

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  13. As someone mentioned previously he would not have just been able to just ‘become” a History Teacher when acting didn’t work out. The entire analysis seems sound, but for that one detail.

    How could Helen not know he was a History teacher? I got the impression Anthony was better off financially, but that doesn’t make sense in light of the conversation Adam had with his mother which indicates History teacher is the real job, not acting, especially if the end is actually the beginning.

    Maybe he was a History teacher, made enough money, married Helen, took up acting, had the affair, they split up and got back together and he went *back* to teaching? That’s the only thing that would make sense to me. I just don’t see how Adam can be the alternate when he is the History teacher. Anthony, the second rate actor, would seem to be the alternate or perhaps Adam the History teacher didn’t like himself, became Anthony and slowly forgot he used to be Adam but then had to be Adam again?

    Great movie. Great analysis.

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    1. I wonder if maybe Adam Bell was just another person, somebody whose name he looked up or even just came across while searching through the University database (assuming he was a teacher the whole time, only his name was actually Anthony Claire) and, afterwards, decided to “take” the name while he was creating his Adam personality. After all, he could be a teacher named Anthony, but in his messed up head he had always been Adam.

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  14. The Director was very forthright about the meaning of the film in his interview with FilmComment.com. Yes Anthony is real. Yes he’s cheating on his wife. Yes, spiders symbolize women. No, the car crash is not when he fractures, but rather when he returns to the “web” of oppression and faithfulness his wife.

    From the interview:


    Villeneuve: You know what, this movie is a very simple story, it’s a man who decides to leave his mistress and go back to his wife, and we see this story from his subconscious point of view.” This is the way I read the book, and this is what I tried to do in making the movie. It’s the simplest story but told in a very complex way.

    FilmComment.com: The first three shots of the film even suggest this idea. You have the panning shot across the city with his mother’s voice leaving him a message on his answering machine; then a shot of Gyllenhaal sitting in his car; and then a shot of his wife on their bed looking back toward the camera. And I got the sense that these three—the mother, himself, and the mother-to-be, his wife—are the three elements that cause him to fracture. Then at the end, as soon as Adam and his wife begin to have sex on the couch, they finally embrace each other again, that’s when Adam’s girlfriend and Anthony Clair have the car crash.

    Villeneuve: I love it because I feel that you really get all the keys and it’s very exciting for me.

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  15. Great analysis and comments. One observation: we know the spider represents the feminine, and particularly Anthony’s fear of being entrapped by women. The large Helen spider at the last scene is the one that terriffies Anthony – it’s his pregnant wife, a complex reality he has difficulty coping with. Later in the sex club (chronologically, tho it’s an early scene), Anthony encounters the “tamed” version – it’s much smaller, in a silver platter, at the mercy of the naked strippers. It’s still a spider and still represents Anthony’s fear of women, but this is the diluted version which you get in the sex club – feminine sexuality with none of the threatening elements of real women, like complex relationships, communication, children, responsibility, commitment, imperfection, arguments etc. Thus it makes sense that Helen is the “ultimate” spider from which Anthony escapes to the sex club where he can access a “safe” spider.
    I have to watch it again to see if that makes sense. 🙂

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  16. Missed clue, which I completely don’t get – ford focus that shows up three times – on the street by the agency, on the street by the hotel before meetup and in the car crash scene – three times the same silver ford focus.
    Secnd think – first short scene of the movie – Helen pregnant siting naked n the bed of Adams apartment.

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  17. I notice something. Audience is having different view on the events. But when Adam came Anthony’s home he was acting weird and we all thought that it was because she was Anthony’s wife. No, he was weird because he was cheating her before. So her wife took his hand to put on his belly as if she was saying ‘you are my husband, this is your baby, don’t cheat me, this is your life.’ Whole movie was like this. Events and behaviour should be notified on Anthony’s point of view. Adam is probably a fake name so he won’t get caught by her wife (or by others when cheating). Movie and timeline was about chaos. Chaos is order yet undeciphered. Movie contains dreams, events, metaphors, opposition all in one big pool 🙂 It is free flow of events and yet very neat.

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    1. Ken: Exactly, almost every significant event in the movie has more than one possible meaning. It could be explained by the existence of the “twin,” or it could be explained by more ordinary facts of the one, real man’s life. The ordinary facts (unfaithful man trying to go back to his wife) are the basic story, and everything else that comes from his dreams, emotions, etc is overlaid on that story so that the real facts have to be picked out. It’s like a simple factual account with a noisy running commentary from the main character’s subconscious. I agree, in spite of the chaos it’s very neat; everything is there if you look for it.

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  18. By the way hotel meet-up was the place where Anthony cheated his wife. So he face his opposition (same face but opposite) at the place where he always cheat. Don’t try to understand this movies with the timeline of events. It can only be understood by thinking abstarct.

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  19. Apologies for being late to the party as I only watched the film for the first time last night but regarding “all those scenes that comes next with him being with Mary in the apartment, is actually all the same day”, I thought she leaves twice during those events – once putting her dress back on to leave during the night and then in the morning to get on the bus to work (when Anthony stalks her)?

    Excuse my eagerness for trying to decipher the meaning of such a brilliant experience before a simple second viewing!

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  20. Just watched Enemy and it was great.
    I read some posts about the movie and I would say that:
    1/ there are no alien spiders taking over the world
    2/ there are not two guys in the world that discover each other
    3/ the main character does not have a mental illness
    4/ there is ZERO reality in the movie – nothing we see actually happened.

    It is a movie about a DREAM. Actually a nightmare. The guy has real world issues with women and guilt. The dream is a representation of how one’s mind tries to work out real life chaos while we sleep. The spider was merely the last image he dreamed before he woke up. His nightmare included themes of being torn by guilt, about life trapping you, about inner moral conflicts. Like all dreams – it solved nothing.

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  21. I was amazed by your text, but after reading it I was still bit confused. After 4 hours of searching the web I finally found satisfying explanation and it pretty much oppose yours. After all effort you put into this I’m sorry to tell you that I honestly think this is the true version:

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  22. I’m not sure if Adam is result of splitting in Anthony or Anthony in Adam’s. But check out Carl Jung’s persona definition, it may add something.

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    1. The name Adam might suggest that he was the original or “real” character. But if they’re aspects of the same person, it probably doesn’t matter.

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  23. “Mama” spider monument is not in Toronto but in Ottawa, ON, Canada. Although the cities are located close, as a Canadian I felt the need to correct 😛 great analysis though! Really broaden my perspective 🙂

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  24. Dani you are brilliant- It is not mindfuck, you must read alot of psychoanalysis to understand it.
    This is why his chracter says ” I dont really like movies”, ahahahahahaahahahahaahahahaha

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  25. Adam Hill might well be a history professor, perhaps he was on the phone to Anthony in Anthony’s apartment, thst call that triggers the row. BUT Anthony and his wife meet outside at the faculty. She might be looking for Adam to ask Gm if he’s having an affair with her husband. But she meets Anthony. I just rewatched to check for anything that might disprove this. It might even be his apartment that we think is Adam-who-is-really-Anthony’s. He just can’t help thinking about his dead girlfriend when he’s there. What do you reckon, theorists?

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  26. The plot must be simple but the screenplay is extremely twisted which is why this movie has given rise to so many perspectives, and they all make sense, in one way or other.
    But apart from the plot there’s something else that’s bothering me to the core and that is the theatrical release poster (also teh picture used as the teaser for this analysis and the thumbnail of the YouTube link posted by bored dragon). I looked it up and only the ‘N’ has been italicized in the title. In all the other posters the style is same for all letters, except this one poster. I believe, this was intentional, what I cannot figure out is WHY!

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