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A Dangerous Method. 2011. Directed by David Cronenberg. Screenplay by Christopher Hampton, based on his play The Talking Cure.
Starring Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, Sarah Gadon, & Vincent Cassel. Telefilm Canada/Ontario Media Development Corporation/Corus Entertainment/eOne Films.
Rated 14A. 99 minutes.
I’ll say it loud and proud ’till the day I die: I am one of David Cronenberg’s biggest fans.
His films are incredible slices of human life twisted around the innovations of everything from technology to media to psychology, as well as all sorts of other themes and topics. While his earlier work is dominated mostly by the physiological, over the past decade or so Cronenberg has kept his eeriness as he’s moved towards examining aspects of the mind. Cronenberg first moved slightly from body horror in 2002 with the Ralph Fiennes-starring Spider, which examined the fractured mind of the titular character through years of psychological torment. Then came A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, both taking a look at the fluid identities of dangerous men involved in the world of organized crime.
But if the second act of Cronenberg’s career has shifted focus more towards psychology then the granddaddy of them all is A Dangerous Method.
Via screenplay written by Christopher Hampton – based on his own play The Talking Cure, which is also based on the book A Dangerous Method: The Story of Jung, Freud, and Sabina Spielrein – the audience is transported into the relationship between groundbreaking psychiatrists Drs. Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, along with the presence of Sabina Spielrein, who went on to become one of the world’s first female psychoanalysts. The style Cronenberg brings here is his typically great eye for framing and an overall gift of storytelling. But more than that he takes his talents in the arena of body horror and manages to make the psychologically uneasy aspects of this story all the more affecting.
A few reviews I remember seeing when this was first released accused Knightley’s performance of being hammy, over-the-top, among other suggested negatives. There’s no way I can agree. In the initial scenes you can grasp the incredible emotional trauma of Sabina, as Knightley dives directly into this woman’s skin. It is a fearless performance from the top. Sabina was a hysteric, and that is how many of them are prone to behaving. Although her accent doesn’t always hit the perfect mark, her overall performance is solid. Her energy as an actress has always been good. Never more formidable than here.
The chemistry between Knightley and Fassbender is fiery, too. For his part, he brings Jung to the screen with an odd charm, one which slowly evaporates over the course of the film. At first he seems a proper man whose interests lie solely in psychiatry, unearthing new practices and honing old ones to modern methodologies and more modern issues/illnesses. Partway through there’s a gradual realization Jung is as repressed, if not more so in some ways, than some of the patients he treats. Through Fassbender we find Jung’s human side and also his hideous one. He seeps talent in every film in which he stars, this is no exception.
Finally, it’s the even more amazing chemistry between Fassbender and Mortensen that makes this film so engaging. Mortensen has a good look for Freud, as well as the fact he captures the air of the men well, right down to little details such as the constant cigar smoking, the pensive and animated conversation, his calm demeanour and way of speaking. He and Fassbender play well off one another – the former with a highly serious tone and set of mannerisms, the other a slightly more loose and freewheeling type. Together, as the tension rises from one conversation to the next, their performances reel us into a psychoanalytic world of ego, jealousy, competition. And their subtle touches as actors, along with the well written screenplay, gives them the ability to work without melodrama. These two together offer nothing but the best.
Jung: “Only the wounded physician can hope to heal”
Part of Jung’s resentment of Freud is that the latter seems to have no problem with sex. Maybe he’s not a ladies man either, yet he willingly dives headlong into sexuality as the root of just about every problem we as humans experience. Meanwhile, it is clear Jung had hangups, which emerged vividly in his relationship with Sabina. So Jung likely thought Freud’s preoccupation and fixation on sex was ill conceived simply because of his own desire to break free sexually, a.k.a cheat on his wife.
One major reason I love A Dangerous Method is because it takes a long, hard, raw look at people who are widely regarded as geniuses in the field of psychiatry. Of course anyone in the know realized Freud was into cocaine, as well as other bits and pieces of both his and Jung’s life. However, exposing the darkness underneath all the masterful work is something intriguing. In that way, Cronenberg further digs into the mind: the collective mind. As we try to believe doctors and other figures of such authority are often better than ourselves, we often forget they are simply human.
The conversations between Freud and Jung are wonderful, in acting and writing. Tension mounts as their opposing views bump up against one another, rubbing each other raw. Every conversation seems to get a little more anxious, each one has more attitude – often from Freud – and the relationship between these two great thinkers deteriorates, almost invisible to their own eyes as it’s happening. Then all of a sudden they’ve grown miles apart during the interim. The progression and downfall of their relationship is certainly precipitated by the affair Jung engages in with Sabina. But the inflated egos of both Freud and Jung lay the foundation for a breeding ground of contempt between them, an inescapable and unavoidable rift.
There are absolutely some flaws to this movie. The fact remains A Dangerous Method is a complex and interesting piece of cinema facilitated by the prodding mind of David Cronenberg. Without a focus on body horror, he puts a tight lens on the horrors of psychology. The dangerous method in question lays waste to the mental capacities and thought processes of Carl Jung, as it also taints Sigmund Freud and Sabina Spielrein. The famous Talking Cure is of course a great thing, one that’s given birth to what we know today as therapy, couples counselling, and so much more.
At the same time, the Talking Cure can lead to dangerous things if not taken by the reins. Someone like Jung, particularly in his affair and resulting mess involving Sabina, talked too much, and perhaps needed his own therapy while falling under the influence of first Freud, then Sabina in her own way, even Otto Gross and his ruminations on the uselessness of monogamy
This true story about the burgeoning days of modern psychiatry and psychoanalysis is a 4-star film with a trio of fabulous performances, the ultimate driving force behind its impact. Great directing, great acting, and a solid screenplay. If you have an interest in the topics at hand, check this out, but either way it is still a nice, interesting work of historical drama that gives us insight into the towering figures of Freud and Jung now that the past few decades have pulled further back the curtain on their personalities and personal lives.
Episode 8: “The Day in Question”
Directed by James Strong
Written by Bridget Carpenter
* For a review of the previous episode, “Soldier Boy” – click here
The titular day in question has arrived. The day of the assassination.
Jake (James Franco), along with Sadie (Sarah Gadon), is racing to get himself in place. JFK is due to be in Dallas for the fateful ride. Out of nowhere, Jake runs into Frank Dunning (Josh Duhamel), or does he? Just a mirage. Even Sadie runs into the specter of her former husband (T.R. Knight). The past is trying to prevent them in any way, shape or form from doing anything to change it.
Through crowded streets they try to make their way to the Book Depository. They come upon the Grassy Knoll, they see people waiting around for the President of the United States to drive by. All unknowing. Sort of eerie to see them in the midst of everything, knowing what’s to come. Another King reference – Randall Flagg struts through the streets, or someone likely to be him, anyways.
But Jake ends up pulling a gun on a man who’s supposed to know things, yet doesn’t, and Jake fears the past is pushing back harder now so close to the event.
Lee Harvey Oswald (Daniel Webber) is sitting, quiet, alone. Meanwhile, Jake manages to get himself inside the building. Only time is passing, fast. A nice Stephen King homage: REDRUM is on the wall as Sadie and Jake run up the stairs.
As the motorcade pulls around, Oswald sits breathing slowly. He is readying himself. The people on the street cheer, raising their hands, waving to John F. Kennedy. Lee steadies the rifle on the President’s car. Intercut with shots to look like the original footage. An amazing, tense sequence. Jake busts in and distracts Lee, enough so that the President and his Secret Service escape unharmed.
Now, though, Jake and Sadie are trapped in there with Oswald, who stalks them still with rifle in hand. “I‘m gonna make my mark on this world,” he raves at Jake. Hand to hand, they fight. That is until Jake’s forced to shoot him in the chest. So, one way or another, the past was going to kill Lee. Whether it was Jake or Jack Ruby, didn’t matter. Worse yet Sadie took a bullet. She is one tough customer. But maybe not tough enough to survive this one.
This puts Jake in custody. Not a perfect situation for a time traveler. He’s now finding himself pinned with being the one to have taken the shots. He’s going down or all of it. What a nasty turn of events for the past to take.
So now we’re seeing the mysterious FBI Agent James B. Hosty (Gil Bellows) again. He is taking part in the interrogation of Jake Epping, as well as Captain Will Fritz (Wilbur Fitzgerald). So Jake lays out the story about Lee, talking about his supposed intentions to kill the President. For the moment it seems as if Jake is up against the wall here.
Then once Hosty is alone with Jake, things appear differently. Outwardly, to anyone in the know like Hosty, it looks like Jake is a spy – two houses, no apparent identity “prior to 1960“, and lots more. Using the present knowledge of past events to his advantage, time traveler Jake keeps an edge on Hosty.
And from nowhere, JFK calls to speak with Jake. He thanks Jake, saying they owe him “their lives” – even Jackie gets on the line to say her peice. An emotional, very real moment for a mini-series involving time travel. But there’s always been a human element to its drama.
Hosty: “Far be it for me to pull the thread on the story of a hero, if I did the whole thing would unravel. God knows this country wants a hero. An American hero, who saved the President‘s life and values his privacy. That‘s how our story‘s gonna go.”
With some cash in his pocket Jake moves on. He buys a ticket elsewhere.
Then in the station he sees a woman reading From Here to Eternity. It’s Sadie, sitting quietly by herself. Except it’s not. Only another mirage, sadly.
Jake gets himself to Lisbon, Maine. But things are troubling him. So he heads through the time portal. He finds the diner leveled. In fact, everything nearby is rubble. Far as the eye can see. Has changing the past really destroyed so much?
Another Stephen King Easter Egg – CAPTAIN TRIPS is spray painted on a wall in the background, as Jake first discovers the new present in a state of apocalypse. Is this the world where the disease of the same name has riddled the world with sickness, death, and madness? Hmm.
Jake encounters someone briefly in the street, though, it’s an awkward encounter to say the least. Obviously something’s happened, and if he were around he’d know. But the place is an absolute mess. Everything is rundown and deserted, abandoned, falling apart. People wander the road. Jake ends up finding Harry Dunning (Leon Rippy), saving him from some marauders. He remembers Jake being the one to have killed his father, saving their family. Time has been changed and thrown for a loop because Jake went ahead and changed the trajectory. He asks Harry about a ton of events, even 9/11 – none of it happened. Turns out that in 1975 there were Kennedy Refugee Camps where “bad things” happened. Nothing got any better. “You don‘t understand this world,” Harry tells Jake.
So with all the disappointment of time travel, Jake sets off headed for the portal once more. All is reset, even down to the clumsy mailman. But he sees Sadie riding in a car, running off towards her. What’s his plan now? Will he live in the world again from the 1960s onward and not change anything?
He starts off trying to introduce himself to Sadie, but then in the door appears the Yellow Card Man (Kevin J. O’Connor). He tries to warn Jake about the perils, as he already did, of getting stuck in a “loop” and how it always “ends the same“, never stopping.
In the end, Jake decides to let Sadie go. He chooses the harder thing instead of the easy thing he wants to do. So tough, but perhaps better in the end. At least for her.
Back in the diner, present day, Jake finds 2016 restored to its proper state.
He goes back to teaching, to his normal life. But of course it’ll never be the same again. Not after all he’s experienced. When Harry shows up again to say he didn’t his promotion, Jake weeps in his arms, saying sorry for not helping. This scene broke me. Such a sad thing to see the burden of all these moments come down on Jake.
At home, he searches Sadie on the internet. She’s receiving a Texas Woman of the Year award. Now older and on in years, Miz Sadie looks marvelous, and Jake watches on as the woman he fell in love with is a completely other person than in his past. Another emotional scene to see Jake having to watch the life he didn’t get to live. Older Sadie even talks of Deke Simmons, too. I loved this scene so much. Really powerful, beautiful few moments that resonate deeply. Classic King-type stuff.
When Jake asks the older Sadie to dance, he chats lovingly with her and flashes back to his dances with the younger Sadie, all at the same time. Through time, something connects between them.
Sadie: “Who are you?”
Jake: “Someone you knew in another life”
I loved the finish to this mini-series. Yes, it’s sort of like the journey to try and save JFK was all for nothing. It was. Although, Jake learned a valuable lesson, and that is the fact the past may not need to be changed. What happens happens. No need to change it because we’ll never know the effects of those decisions.
A solid King adaptation I enjoyed. Most of the episodes were incredible. Lots of thrills, few chills, and a ton of great acting.
Episode 6: “Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald”
Directed by John David Coles
Written by Bridget Carpenter
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Truth” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Soldier Boy” – click here
Back in time again for another episode with Jake Epping (James Franco) traipsing around the early 1960s with his sidekick Bill Turcotte (George MacKay), falling in love with Sadie Dunhill (Sarah Gadon).
After the events of “The Truth”, we move forward six months to October of 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald (Daniel Webber) is applying for a job at the Texas School Book Depository, trying his best to charm the boss. And damned if he doesn’t get hired. Outside, a man talks to him, Oswald suspects he’s FBI (Stephen King adaptation-alum Gil Bellows) and starts getting a little squirrely. Even further, it seems Marina (Lucy Fry) and Lee are separated. He goes to see her, trying to impress her in order to get her back at home. But nothing is working. Her friend Ruth (Miranda Calderon) tells Lee, “give her time“, only there may not be a ton of time left for Oswald, not if he’s planning on doing what Jake and Bill think he’s about to do.
The time traveling self-appointed detective Jake doesn’t stick around with Bill a whole lot anymore. He’s busy looking after Sadie. Meanwhile, Bill is getting stir crazy. At the same time, though, George de Mohrenschildt (Jonny Coyne) is back to see Lee, piquing the interest of the pair and their recording equipment. But they don’t get much before George leaves. Seems maybe there’s a bit of confusion about. “If we don‘t alter his life, we‘re fine,” says Jake – not knowing about Bill and his interactions with both Marina and Lee himself. Bill lashes out at his friend, but it’s likely he may have altered history slightly enough to fuck it all up. Is that possible? For now, Jake figures if they don’t soon sort it all out, they’ll have to abduct Oswald when President John F. Kennedy is in Dallas during November. Most important, Bill and Jake are at odds quite a bit lately.
At home, Sadie is resting with the company of Deke Simmons (Nick Searcy) who implores Jake to “make an honest woman” of her. Jake’s letting more and more of the future slip to Sadie, as well as his plans to help her with the surgery necessary to heal her face. With her in on his time traveling, the upcoming shooting of JFK, this gives the plot a nice new twist, which takes it forward a bit. I also love that we’ve jumped six months because it skips the whole initial shock of Sadie getting used to the fact her new man is from the future. It allows the storytelling to go on without too many bumps.
In other news, Mimi (Tonya Pinkins) found out she’s got a tumour the “size of a lemon” and that there may not be much hope. Yet she keeps her chin up. For his part, Jake is upset: “I wish you‘d call me Jake. I wish you‘d told me sooner.” Mimi doesn’t weep, instead she instructs him on what to do after she’s gone; a couple favours. A beautiful, emotional, well-written and acted scene. Real full of impact.
Mimi: “Deke and I have spent our lives next to one another, not with one another.”
Trying to rake in the cash, Jake places more bets. He’s stockpiling for Sadie and her surgery, as well as any money he’ll need going forward with his mission. At the little flop house Jake listens in on a party at the Oswald residence, plenty of Russian accents and such. But worst of all? He hears Bill meet with Marina.
Now they’re getting much too closer to Lee and his family. Bill’s up there partying, drinking, laughing with Lee, all the guests. It really has Jake on edge, making him pretty damn (and rightfully) angry. Turcotte thinks he’s somehow making things better, but Jake reassures: “You mess with the past it messes back.” Even Mohrenschildt arrives, too. During a bit of an argument, Jake and Bill knock over a lamp, which reveals the recording device the detective pairing hooked up. Except it all makes Lee go a bit wild, spewing paranoia, before trashing his apartment in front of all the guests. Uh. Oh. Not only that, Bill and Jake have major trouble happening between them, especially after the latter sees his supposed partner in crime kissing Oswald’s wife outside the apartment. This starts a bit of a fight, more blind ignorance from Bill: “I‘m not tryin‘ to save anyone, that‘s over.” He even threatens Jake with outing the whole operation to Oswald.
Lee: “Land of the Free? Home of the Brave? This is such a crock of shit!”
Oswald goes for a bit of target practice while Jake is off frantically trying to determine his next move, and also getting Sadie up to Parkland so she can see a doctor. Cute bit of dialogue here, as Sadie won’t believe Jake when he says people walk around “with their phones in their hands” constantly.
And out of nowhere? The Yellow Card Man (Kevin J. O’Connor). And Jake worries something’s about to go terribly wrong. When he tries to fight against the past, the past fights back. Or is it the doing of the Yellow Card Man? None of the doors will open. The fire alarm won’t set off. Nothing works as it should. He manages to get in and stop the surgery: “She wasn‘t getting any oxygen,” one of the surgeons notes dramatically. Just in time.
Continually, Jake keeps his eye on the buddy-buddy pair of Lee and Bill. And now he worries about the “second shooter” – is this how it happens? Well either way Jake tells Bill about Marina at the hospital, supposedly having the baby alone, calling for her new lover. Rather, there’s no baby coming. Jake is having his old friend committed to the hospital, in order to head off what may possibly happen because of Bill’s relationship with Lee. Of course it helps that, when Bill freaks out, the talk of Jake being “from the future” and such makes the guy seem absolutely batshit crazy. It doesn’t fully sit well with Jake. Although, it must be done; for the greater good(?).
Jake tails Mohrenschildt, almost strangling him in his car. He interrogates George re: Lee Harvey Oswald. Jake poses as some sort of shadowy government official, saying he knows about “Haiti” and other particulars. Sneaky, sneaky, Mr. Epping. Such an excellently savage little scene. Above all, it’s interesting that George seemingly knows nothing of Oswald and the assassination plan on JFK; we get a quick cut back to Al Templeton (Chris Cooper) discussing with Jake how to go about figuring things out. And it is obvious: no way out but to kill Oswald. He’s a lone wolf, or so it appears. Oh, and plus – Jake asks Sadie to marry him, over the telephone from a shitty little booth. It’s the thought that counts.
Sadie: “Tell me one more thing about the future”
Jake: “In the future we‘re married”
Sadie: “I like the sound of that”
Sweet thoughts are cut off quick. Jake finds himself being chased by a crew of men led by the one who took his bet earlier. He ran around making a lot of bets. Turns out, they’re all under the one guy’s belt. Even worse than that, Bill made bets against Jake’s better judgement, and made things pretty damn terrible. Jake takes a rough beating, including a good pistol whip, and then gets left in an alley. He is one hell of a mess.
Waking up, Jake sees flashing lights, he catches glimpses of Sadie’s face, someone else (his former wife Christy; from the future). Is the past taking its toll on him? Is it wrecking his mind as it once did to Al via cancer? We’ll find out more soon.
Stay with me folks. Next episode is the penultimate “Soldier Boy”, and ought to give us more wild, exciting progressions like this one did. Loving this series, such a solid and interesting adaptation of King.
Episode 5: “The Truth”
Directed by James Franco
Written by Joe Henderson
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Eyes of Texas” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald” – click here
Back in time once more this week with Jake Epping a.k.a George Amberson (James Franco) and his trusty sidekick Bill Turcotte (George MacKay) in the early 1960s.
Last we left Jake, he’d discovered Sadie Dunhill (Sarah Gadon) snooping around the recording equipment. She even heard some nasty little recordings of all the dirty details – that is, a bit of sex between Lee Harvey Oswald (Daniel Webber) and his wife Marina (Lucy Fry). What’s about to happen now in this latest episode, properly titled “The Truth”?
Sadie tries to run away, disgusted with Jake. He does his darnedest to explain, saying they were “Russian actors” in a play. But she knows there’s something more. He says it’s about her protection, yet that’s not going to be good enough. This has divided them impossibly for now. The token of her feelings, a dish of food, sits on the table still, reminding Jake of her. So he tosses it.
Flashback to Jake in the classroom, in present day. He asks his class about “traveling back in time“, what they might do. Suggestions for killing Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, so on.
Switch back to ’63. Jake’s getting let go from his job by Principal Deke Simmons (Nick Searcy), due to a “moral clause” in the contract he signed. The “Russian filth” did him no good. Either way, it’s sad to see him go. Certainly Mimi (Tonya Pinkins) doesn’t like it either.
Back to present. Al Templeton (Chris Cooper) and Jake talk about Oswald more, and whether Al saw him shoot at General Walker. Al never lasted long enough, so now it’s in Jake’s hands.
In ’63, Jake and Bill sit on Oswald more. They need to see if Oswald is alone, or whether something larger is at play. Or someone completely different altogether. “Is it bad I‘m rootin’ for Lee to hit the guy?” Bill asks. The time is set, they’re ready to spy on what happens “according to history“, to see what fate has in store for them. I love the plot because it takes people right through researching a conspiracy theory, or possibly through what may have actually happened.
Jake: “It doesn‘t matter why he shoots. All that matters is if he shoots.”
The investigative duo try to prepare for every possible mishap on the day. Working against the past and its way may prove difficult at important turns. For his part, Bill’s curious about what happens afterwards. None of that is on Jake’s mind; only the job at hand. Nonetheless, Bill isn’t overly thrilled about staying in the past once Jake leaves. He seems to push too hard at times, though, overall is a good man. And he also has nothing keeping him anywhere, such is how he ended up with Jake to begin with, so I can understand his frustration with his life situation when traveling to the future could be accomplished.
With Sadie on her own, it looks like she may have someone following close by. Is it the sadomasochistic ex-husband Johnny Clayton (T.R. Knight)? Very likely.
On the phone, Jake gets a call from none other than Johnny himself. He’s with Sadie, and she looks in rough shape with what looks like a pillowcase on her head, blood seeping through.
Jake leaves Bill to their business. He rushes to Sadie’s place fast as his feet can move.
Inside, Johnny’s been a bad boy. He has Jake sit at the table, Sadie still with her bloody covering. Once Johnny removes it, we see her face, what he’s been busy doing: “She‘s not really pretty anymore,” he whispers to Jake. He taunts them both, calling his ex-wife a “dirty little bird” and such (reminiscent of other psychotic characters from Stephen King such as in Misery). This is one of the creepiest scenes yet. Knight gives it his all as Clayton, making you cringe and squirm a little in the seat. There’s a quiet, subtle madness about him that you feel might erupt at any moment. Johnny eventually serves up a bit of bleach for Jake to drink. And then Sadie enacts a plan for their hopeful escape. With some taunting of her own Sadie keeps Johnny busy. Until a doorbell rings.
Sadie: “All this because I told him your dirty little secret? Well I didn‘t even tell him about your grandmother. She liked to wash you, didn‘t she? She washed you real good. How old were you? Twelve? No, thirteen. They took her away because of you.”
Clever cut to Bill at the door of Marina Oswald. Uh oh. They share more cigarettes together while Lee is sleeping. How far will he risk Lee catching them, or becoming too suspicious of Bill, and in turn Jake? Right now, love is blinding Bill. And Lee wakes up, discovering them on the steps. This brings Bill too close to the situation. “Have you ever read any Karl Marx?” Lee questions: “You read it and then we‘ll talk.” He hands over a copy of Marx on Economics. “It tells the truth,” says Lee. For the time being, the investigation is safe.
Cut back to the Clayton situation. At the door are two students with stuff from a raffle. He tries to get the kids away fast. After that he tosses the bleach in Johnny’s face, blinding him. This sends Clayton, blurry eyed, shooting bullets around the room in a rage before Jake is forced to bury a fire poker in his temple. For good measure, Sadie shoots him. A brutal and tense scene.
Police are on the scene quickly. An ambulance carts Sadie off, leaving Jake to ponder what follows. Trying to get away from police questioning, Jake is saved by Deke, who shows up out of nowhere. Seems he’s as happy as anyone to have Clayton dead. The cops get a statement from Jake later, quite an honest one, too. It’s as if the town is merely hoping for Sadie to pull through, with students and even Deke offering to give blood.
Meanwhile, Bill is on the case by himself. Nine o’clock strikes and there he is, waiting for Lee to appear around General Walker’s office window; somewhere, anywhere. But then coming out of the nearby church, Bill believes he sees his sister Clara. He chases her before realizing it’s, obviously, not her. In his absence, the shot goes off. Who was it?
Flashbacks again to Al, his advice for Jake heading into the past: “If you get too close, you forget what you came for.” A fact Jake’s already realizing, much too heavily. And then Walker shows up with a gunshot wound to his arm. Jake watches on darkly. He calls Bill, who has no good news. He’s got his own demons haunting him, as well.
Goods news? Sadie isn’t dead, she’ll just have a bad scar. After she sees Jake again, he reveals more of himself, giving her the titular truth. Their bond becomes closer now after such a terrifying ordeal.
Looking forward to more next week with “Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald” – sure to bring more excitement, more revelation, more twists and turns. Stay with me, folks.
Episode 4: “The Eyes of Texas”
Directed by Fred Toye
Written by Bridget Carpenter
* For a review of previous episode, “Other Voices, Other Rooms” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Truth” – click here
Back in the past again! Jake Epping (James Franco) and Bill Turcotte (George MacKay) are hard at work trying to crack into the big mystery of Lee Harvey Oswald (Daniel Webber) and the enigma that is his life.
We start now watching Oswald with his rifle. He times himself putting it together, piece by piece, screw by screw. He cheers himself on slightly as he works. “You‘re in the Marines now, son,” Lee says to himself: “Let‘s see it.” Clearly, he is preparing himself for something important. Then he begins the entire exercise all over again, starting with taking the thing apart this time. Or is it just Marine behaviour? Either way, he stops what he’s doing to go tend to his crying child. “I‘m going to hunt fascists,” Lee tells his wife Marina (Lucy Fry) and George de Mohrenschildt (Jonny Coyne) who take the famous picture of him with his gun in the backyard.
Across the way, Jake and Bill watch closely. They never miss a beat. But Bill has a little more than surveillance on his mind, which catches the gaze of Marina slightly. Could this come to be something more? A problem?
At school, Jake is getting closer to Sadie Dunhill (Sarah Gadon). However, not everyone is too keen on him doing so, which brings up a conversation on “discretion” with the overly-involved principal.
Back at the house, Bill plays Jake a recording – the first in English from Lee and George, suggesting an attempt on General Walker’s life, plus mentions of the CIA, et cetera, all under wraps. Plenty of conspiracy theorizing between Jake and Bill. Nevertheless, they determine a need to follow them both. Not without a little arguing first, though. Out of nowhere, Ms. Mimi Corcoran (Tonya Pinkins) arrives at their door – she claims Jake is not who he says. Seems she’s “investigated” Jake, his degree, past addresses and so on. More wrenches being thrown in the works. At the same time, Ms. Corcoran doesn’t appear to be throwing Jake to the dogs either. He reveals his real name, claiming to have been put in “Witness Proection… in 1959“, then laying out talk of Mafia except he uses The Godfather as his fairytale plot. Hilarious scene, Franco plays it out so perfectly.
Mimi: “For some of us, dignity matters.”
Jake decides on using that discretion mentioned earlier. He invites Sadie out to a little getaway, in order to reveal his true self. Or that’s how it seems. And outside, it also seems someone may be watching Jake.
Meanwhile, Bill is getting a little too close to Marina Oswald. The smile on his face makes clear he’s got a shine for her. Not only are they pushing against the past, they’re slowly getting too involved with people in it. Certainly liable to spell disaster along the road.
Over at the cabin, Sadie has slight suspicions about Jake, that he may not be fully divulging the truth about himself, who he is. “I feel like I‘m an impostor in my own life, everyone thinks I‘m one thing, but I‘m something else,” Jake explains to her: “But I don‘t want to be that way.” Before he can go any further, Jake notices an envelope on the floor by the door. It contains pictures of them through the window, someone spying from outside. Creepy, foreboding moment. This sends Jake into a frenzy, as he and Sadie have to leave. Quick. Jake tells Bill he believes it’s the CIA trying to tell them “back off” – Bill advises leaving Sadie, though, Jake’s not thrilled on that idea.
Heading into a shady building, George and Lee are followed closely, quietly by Jake and Bill. They believe it could be George introducing Oswald to CIA contacts. Inside, the place is a lounge, a whore house, a bar; all in one. Music plays, drinks flow. Jake tries to figure out what’s really going on, as Bill gets jealous and angry because Lee has a woman that isn’t his wife hanging off him. Uh oh. But they continue their little mission, doing the best they can to keep track of Oswald and Mohrenschildt.
Jake goes upstairs with a young lady sporting a wonderfully Southern drawl – “I don‘t do nothin‘ standin‘ up on account of my bad leg,” she explains while they work their way towards a room. Yet Jake’s more interested in spying on his two targets. He ends up causing a commotion after breaking one of the girl’s shoes. That is, before the police bring a raid down, and Jake is caught up then taken to the station. This puts him in a position where the principal at his school has to bail him out; definitely not impressed now.
This brings Jake back to school, without a chance to wash, or change his clothes. He witnesses a quick moment between the principal and Mimi, the latter having some sort of coughing fit. Is there trouble for Ms. Corcoran? I’d hate to think so, she is a wonderful woman. Also, there’s Sadie receiving a visit from her ex-husband Johnny Clayton (T.R. Knight), which doesn’t appear too happy. Jake tries to help comfort Sadie afterwards, but there’s more going on: Johnny won’t give her a divorce, tracking her down in the town of Jodie after she left. A loaded situation, between Jake’s situation and hers, each with their own tricky complexities. Added to that, Johnny is not a normal man; he has strange, unnatural desires, as well as a heavy hand for his wife.
News from Bill, as Lee and George are on the move. They’re preparing to follow the two men separately; Jake on George, Bill on Lee. At the house, Bill is forced to listen in on the Oswalds having sex, which drives him mad. He feels too much for Marina, which is sooner or later going to cause an issue. But as for Jake, he’s trailed George to a loading dock, and tries to pick up on what’s being discussed, as George meets with some suited men near the back.
And then, Johnny Clayton shows up to talk with Jake, surprising him. Turns out, Johnny’s been doing a bit of trailing on his own. It was Clayton who took the photographs of Jake and Sadie: “You‘ve been bad,” he warns Epping. Still, Jake has his own threats and makes his point clear. Unfortunately, Johnny believes Sadie is his property, that he owns her. This Clayton is an eerie character, with the clothespin thing and all; an undercover sadomasochistic man in the early 1960’s. More to come from this awkwardly tense encounter, no doubt.
Immediately after, Jake heads with flowers and chocolates to see Sadie. He talks about how things can get “messy” and “broken“, but that he “loves everything” about her. They’ve connected. Despite Al Templeton (Chris Cooper) warning him, Jake has gone and gotten involved with somebody deeply in the past.
Bill’s at home drinking, clearly upset, and also fed up with the Russian talk. When Jake gets home, upstairs a commotion starts when Lee is obviously beating on his wife. Then suddenly, silence. This situation is brewing into a rocky relationship for Bill and Jake. Making matters worse, Bill continually injects himself into Marina’s life. He tries consoling her outside on the steps, which leads to the two of them becoming closer, even just a little.
Next day at school, Mimi is out sick. Worse, Sadie receives a note claiming Jake is not who he claims; though, she hides it from Jake. The note came along with divorce papers, which Johnny signed and delivered. Will we see more of Clayton disrupting the life of Jake? I’m sure of it.
A renewal of trust comes for Bill, as Jake lets it be known he couldn’t make the journey through the past without him. They’re back on the same page, mostly. And that’s the best thing for them both.
The finale of this episode brings a devastating scene. Sadie heads to see Jake, food in hand. Only Jake’s nowhere to be found. The place is dark and totally quiet. Then, she finds recordings of the Russian chats, the surveillance on Oswald and his wife. Particularly, she hears the moaning and lovemaking. Very suspicious indeed: “Who are you?” she desperately asks Jake, as the credits cut in.
Can’t wait for the next episode, “The Truth”, which promises lots of fun and excitement again. Excellent one again this week. Solid adaptation all around.
Enemy. 2014. Dir. Denis Villeneuve.
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, and Isabella Rossellini. E1 Films. Rated R. 90 minutes. Mystery/Thriller
★★★★ (Blu ray release)
I won’t waste any time really describing the plot of Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy, which is in part based on the novel The Double by José Saramago. You can easily get the quick description from any site like IMDB, or somewhere else of that nature. What I want to talk about is my take on what actually happens in the film. So, with that being said, if you’ve not yet seen this you’ll probably want to avoid the remainder of my review.
Early on, Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal), a history professor at some college, gives lectures pertaining to totalitarian regimes. I think this leads into one of the larger themes of the film. While some think the movie is an analogy of how it is to live under a totalitarian regime, maybe unknowingly. However, I think this is ultimately about the totalitarian in all of us. What I mean is that I believe Adam Bell and Anthony Claire – his double – are truly one person. I think this movie speaks to how we are often dictators of ourselves.
In this sense, Adam is both himself, a history professor, and Anthony, or Daniel Saint Claire the background actor in lesser known films.
One of the instances I think that points to this is when Adam meets with his mother (the consistently interesting and lovely Isabella Rossellini) – he tells her about this possible double, which she of course pretty much laughs off. Afterwards, though, she tells him: “I think you should quit that fantasy being a third-rate movie actor“. The statement throws Adam off. It’s worth mentioning that just before this his mother serves blueberries for dessert. Adam tells her he doesn’t like blueberries, but she reassures him “of course” he does, and they’re good for him – this directly relates to when we see Anthony earlier before his meeting with Adam, when he arrives home looking for blueberries and his pregnant wife (Sarah Gadon) forgot to get the ones he wanted. I believe this is one tell-tale sign Villeneuve is exploring the duality of one person.
There are most certainly instances in Enemy that cannot truly be reconciled into one neat little package for explanation. On the other hand, I do believe there’s one overall theme that protrudes from the film – the struggle of certain men to overcome their desire and draw towards infidelity. I am almost certain the spider imagery here is also closely paralleled with the idea of women. For instance, the very end – and once again, TURN BACK if you have not see this film to the end!
At the close of the film, Anthony has died in a car accident along with Adam’s girlfriend Mary (Mélanie Laurent) after a switch between the two identical men goes awry. After this, Adam is seem continuing on, seemingly, happily with a pregnant Helen. He receives an envelope in the mail containing a smaller black envelope; inside, a key. This is harkens back to an awkward encounter Adam has in the elevator with a man, thinking he is Anthony, talking about some place they went together, rambling about new keys, and so on. All of this plays to the beginning where Anthony is seen at the weird sex club with the women and the spider – all that. Adam then says he may have to go out later that night, but receives no response from Helen. When he goes into the room to find her, Adam only finds a massive black spider huddling up, as if scared, in the room instead. He doesn’t really look scared so much, as he almost seems to have expected to see it there sooner or later.
I believe this is a huge key. Right there, Adam comes face to face once more with the infidelity inside him – the feelings Anthony represented. Adam had no desire to have sex with Helen in the beginning. It was only due to Anthony’s aggressive behaviour Adam ever agreed to switch places for the night; Anthony was the one who wanted to get away from his pregnant wife and be a single man again for a night, even if it meant pretending to be Adam. Once Anthony’s crazy behaviour goes over the top, it leads to him and Mary being killed in the car crash – this is Adam effectively killing off the side of him which strives to cheat on his wife. In reality, Adam and Helen are together, and the parts of the film involving Anthony and Mary are almost like the struggle involving his feelings of infidelity going on in his mind. You can see a real change start to happen particularly once Adam lays down in bed with Helen for the first time – I think this scene unlocks a lot of things.
These ideas also tie into the moments where we see the ominous spider stalking through the Toronto skyscrapers. Furthermore, the woman in the beginning about to crush the spider with her heel is sort of a representation of a woman being the answer to Adam’s search – the woman is literally going to crush the spider, the infidelity, underneath her boot. At the end of the film, Adam sees the giant spider in that room and we can see how he may have thought the thoughts of infidelity were killed off with Anthony – however, they were simply relegated to a room in his mind – because it’s clear the city itself is a sort of lifelike, realized world representative of Adam’s overall mind. Even some of the cover art points to this fact. I think, for me, this is one of the best explanations of the film. It works for my viewing. Maybe not for that of others.
This is by far one of the best films I’ve seen in the past decade or so. I love a movie which not only has what can be taken as a definitive meaning behind all the imagery, but also likes to play with the imagery in a way that can shock us, or push us to interpret, reinterpret, and so on. Villeneuve does a great job of weaving a fantastic tale here. He certainly leaves a lot to the imagination. I’m not saying my opinion on the meaning of this film is a definitive answer at all – there are many other great views on what Enemy truly means, and I think some of those are excellent, as well as very viable options as to a concrete theory. I happen to think mine, which is shared by plenty of others before me, is just one of the most interesting ways to look at the film. It’s a great one, and on the top of my 2014 releases – this didn’t make it out until last year here, even though it was screened plenty in the latter half of 2013. So please, check it out.
The Blu ray is also fantastic – there are a few special features you can dig into, including interviews with all involved. Wonderful picture and sound. Highly recommend this release. Denis Villeneuve is one of the best Canadian filmmakers ever to grace us with his presence. I can’t wait to see what he does in the future.