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Enemy

Jake Gyllenhaal gives two excellent performances in “Enemy.” He stars as Adam, a bearded, rumpled Toronto history professor sleepwalking his way through life. He also stars as Daniel, a slick, self-absorbed actor who is Adam’s physical duplicate. Each has a loveless, but not sexless, relationship with physically similar, emotionally distant blondes. Adam and Daniel trespass on each other’s life, and for a time it looks as if this will be a suspenseful tale of swapped identities and adultery. Then it verges into not-quite-real territory on its way to a madhouse.

This creepshow comes by its eccentricity honestly. It’s based on a doppelgänger novel by José Saramago, the only fantasy writer to win a Nobel Prize in literature. If you laid Roman Polanski, Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka and David Cronenberg end to end, you might get something like this. It imagines what would happen to a humdrum man’s life if suddenly a hatch should open and something viscerally disturbing appeared in his living room.

The film nimbly plays with themes of identity and voyeurism. Adam is our identification figure, but there are portents suggesting that his consciousness is somehow damaged. Slipping deftly between characters, Gyllenhaal gradually reveals them as individuals carrying similar burdens of frustration and resentment, but warped in different ways.

“Enemy” is a bewilderingly skillful metaphysical thriller combining Swiss-watch engineering and surrealism, like one of Dali’s melted timepieces.

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