Enemy Ending Explained- I Think Therefore I Am A Giant Spider
The 2013 psychological thriller Enemy is a consciousness expanding head-scratcher that will leave the average viewer confused, scared, and shocked as the credits roll.
Enemy is the story of an unremarkable professor named Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his obsession-driven journey as he discovers his exact look-alike in a movie. The doppelganger is movie star Anthony Claire, also played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who, while being nearly identical physically, is vastly different from Adam in several ways that the film is keen to spotlight. Sometimes this is as surface level as pointing out that one likes blueberries while the other doesn’t, and at other times more complex, such as when Anthony points out that Adam’s hands shake while his own remain perfectly still. But as Adam discovers more and more coincidences between himself and the actor, and communication deepens between the two Jakes, conflict becomes inevitable.
“Chaos is order yet undeciphered”
As these words flash on the screen at the beginning of Enemy, I don’t think anyone was truly ready for the chaos that would ensue over the next hour and a half. The film is continuously shot with darker lighting, and all shots that provide a gauge of setting, show a filtered gloomy sky as one might expect in a bleak thriller. Denis Villeneuve’s mind fuck broadcasts from the beginning that things are going to get real weird, real fast.
What’s real in this twisted story?
A specific building is shown periodically throughout the movie, the uniquely designed twisting Absolute World Towers in Ontario, Canada. This could speak to the twisting and skewed sense of reality that the audience sees through the eyes of Adam. All of which presents the theory: is Anthony Claire even real? Or is he a broader representation of Adam’s egotistical and courageous second half?
When Adam and Anthony meet for the first time in Enemy, Anthony suggests they could be long lost, brothers. Adam is immediately dismissive of this theory as he grew up an only child. But that’s when things get intriguing. Anthony then lifts his shirt and shows a scar on his chest, a near-identical scar that Adam has as well. This highlighted the shared experiences of the two and was a clear cinematographic decision by Director Villeneuve to portray his message. Adam and Anthony are the same person.
At the beginning of the film, Adam teaches a history class about dictators and their need to “censor any means of individual expression,” and that this was a “pattern that repeats itself throughout history.” These specific lines are repeated multiple times for emphasis and highlight how Adam is the censored version of himself. He is too afraid of commitment and experience ever to become his true Anthony.
What’s with all the spiders?
The use of spiders in Enemy as an adaptive and transformative symbol is probably what provides the greatest intrigue. Until the ending (we’ll get to that,) the images of spiders were presented as dreams only. They provide even further clarity into Adam’s fears and intentions, however. After declining a phone call from his mother while researching his other self, he found himself turning to her for advice. Upon arriving, she then gives Adam a bowl of blueberries, which she insists he loves. Given that Anthony likes blueberries, this could show how Anthony represents an Adam of a simpler time with no fear or responsibility.
His mother goes on to tell him to “quit his fantasies of being a third-grade movie star.” Anthony is Adam’s hopes and dreams. Right after this scene, we cut to a giant spider walking through the streets of Toronto. This shows his mother’s overarching doubts and expectations of her son. Anthony is everything Adam wanted for himself. He has a beautiful loving wife, a child on the way, and he is rich, famous, and successful. Adam is none of those things. In effect, Anthony is Adam’s enemy for what he represents.
At another point in the film, one of Adam’s dreams features a naked woman approaching from a hallway in an upside-down shot. The wrongness of the image is literally flipping what we see and what we think we know on its head. As she approaches, we find her face is replaced with that of a spider. This shows his fear of commitment as projected on him by his mother. He believes no woman will ever live up to her impossible expectations of him. She isn’t exactly a nurturing parent.
Okay… but what does the ending mean?
When this film was released, this was the hot topic of discussion surrounding the film for a good reason. Adam is confronted when Anthony falsely believes that he used his appearance to sleep with his wife, (Anthony represents his jealousy,) he then vows to get revenge by sleeping with Adam’s girlfriend. All goes according to plan until Adam’s girlfriend notices the ring indentation on Anthony’s fingers and suspicions arise.
On the drive back, a fight starts leading to a graphic car crash, presumably killing both individuals. Meanwhile, Adam had gone to his counterpart’s wife’s house to get the same revenge. After settling in and waking that morning, unaware of the previous night’s accident, we see Adam visually at his happiest. He opens Anthony’s confidential envelope and finds the new house key. This symbolizes how content Adam feels finally being in the role of his dream life. Even if only for a moment. Adam then walks to the room to see Anthony’s wife, but she isn’t there. Instead, he finds a gigantic spider. It violently hisses, and the credits roll.
No loving wife, no loving girlfriend, and no Anthony. It wasn’t real. Adam ended up exactly where he started—feeling useless, depressed, and alone. Not exactly the happy-go-lucky ending us movie-viewers usually push for, but a thought-provoking one nevertheless. The killing of Anthony was the efficient death of all Adam wanted and had hoped to be. Nothing to look forward to, and nothing to fall back on. In this story, it is fair to say that the darkness won. Villeneuve is perhaps trying to argue a grim reality. Fear drives us to live less, and living more can be deadly. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.