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4th February 2014

Preview: The Double

Angus Harrison previews Richard Ayoade’s next film, based on the work by Dostoyevsky

“It was a little before eight o’clock in the morning when Yakov Petrovitch Golyadkin, a titular councilor, woke up from a long sleep. He yawned, stretched, and at last opened his eyes completely. For two minutes, however, he lay in his bed without moving, as though he were not yet quite certain whether he were awake or still asleep, whether all that was going on around him were real and actual, or the continuation of his confused dreams.”

So begins Dostoyevsky’s The Double, a bizarre novella of mistaken identity and the source material for Richard Ayoade’s second feature. He hasn’t given very much away as of yet, opting for a trailer that, unlike most, doesn’t detail every major plot point or all the best jokes. Yet there are still some fantastic details worth picking out from the stirring teaser. Most notably the stellar cast he has gathered together. The film will star Jesse Eisenberg, not once but twice as he plays the protagonist Golyadkin and the films antagonist –  his doppledanger. Surrounding the two Eisenbergs are Mia Wakowski, Shawn Wallace, Noah Taylor, the elusive Chris Morris and Yasmin Paige (who is working with Ayoade again after her turn in Submarine).

Beyond the cast the trailer actually gives very little detail on plot. One option would be, of course, to read the novella which would most likely give a fairly good synopsis. Mostly I’m a pretty staunch advocate of ‘reading the book’ – it can give the film a much greater context and allows the director a more space to breathe, not being tied to spelling out narrative details. However in this case, I think I’m going to watch the film first. The very aesthetic of the trailer is intriguing enough, suggesting an charming yet somehow ugly concrete landscape of nondescript offices and bureaus. Eisenberg’s character is clearly going to be challenged by his double, in his work life and his social life, yet the coiled tension of the trailer certainly suggests that this conflict will be played out slowly. This simmering quality should create a perfect atmosphere for sharp comedy and dynamic interactions between the excellent cast.

Finally there is Ayoade behind the camera. Now more than ever he is more than Moss from The IT Crowd, but if he needed anything to truly cut the chord it will be this film. Described by those who have seen it as ‘weird as fuck’ and ‘knowingly niche’, it seems he has stepped far beyond the groundwork he set out in ‘Submarine’, breaking into new bewildering Gillam-esque territory. The film has gone down a storm at Sundance and can be expected in the UK in April.

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