The Big Issue : Edition 458
THEBIGISSUE9–22MAY2014 33 Double Trouble of Simon. It’s quite a feat, considering Simon and James share the same face, in the same suit, on the same screen, for the majority of this existential yet humourous character study. Set in a sparsely populated no- place, no-time retro-future, Simon and James frequently face off, making the supporting roles integral to the film’s success. Ayoade’s regular collaborators are usually major players – including Chris O’Dowd, Noah Taylor, Sally Hawkins and Paddy Considine – but here they’re cast in minor roles. “Well, it’s not like Chris O’Dowd’s struggling to get work,” Ayoade jokes. “The thing with actors is that they’re really happy to do parts for one or two days – it’s just they probably never get asked.” It’s a humble explanation, but Ayoade’s ability to fill his films with such talent is also testament to his own. “I think there’s maybe a handful of directors who feel they can just beat things out of people who they don’t like, but I think that must be an awful way to work,” he says. “It’s hard enough to make something without a load of distracting tensions, and also you have a very short amount of time, so the fact that you know [your actors] gives you an advantage.” This well-mannered and savvy approach comes across in Ayoade’s thoughtful direction. He cites the artworks of Edward Hopper and Edvard Munch as inspiration for The Double’s desolate industrial vision, frequently placing bodies in tight spaces. His use of windows, hallways, staircases and doorframes in particular creates a claustrophobic canvas, where moments of carefully choreographed deadpan slapstick flourish. It’s here that the subsidiary characters add comic flavouring, enlivening the deliberately monochrome setting and often-bleak story with absurd lives and laughs. LEFT WRITER-DIRECTOR RICHARD AYOADE THIS PAGE JESSE EISENBERG AND MIA WASIKOWSKA IN THE DOUBLE The Double revels in the uncanny, but it was the supporting characters’ nonchalant response to the arrival of Simon’s double that attracted Ayoade. “A doppelganger normally is a gothic conceit, a matter that everyone would remark upon. But for no one to care felt so emotionally ripe,” he says. “It’s not how anyone else, other than a kind of genius like Dostoyevsky, would have spun it.” Yet Ayoade has given this otherworldly story a spin of his own, housing it in a post-digital world that he says has “never existed and never will exist”. This imagined realm crystallises the tale’s potency and works to concentrate Simon’s fears. Like Dostoyevsky did nearly 170 years before him, Ayoade manages to make the timeworn doppelganger motif feel original again. by Stephanie Van Schilt » The Double is out now.