Are You Being Replaced or Possessed?
by Tobe Damit
Originally and according to the first tales and stories about doppelgängers, these malevolent doubles (not twins) were creatures that were exact replicas, evil creatures from another dimension whose main goal would be to replace us in this world and all was needed for them to do so was for us to dare to look at them straight in the eyes. I was thinking recently about doppelgängers becoming a hit in the horror movie trend since it’s the next best thing after zombies… In fact, I think the subtext and underlying meaning of these creatures that are in fact our evil reflection is utterly interesting, even more so than zombies. I picked 2 typical movies on this theme and ended it with Possession from Zulaswski (1981) that is not officially recognized as such but does raise the question of ”doubles” in a more unconventional and perhaps even more frightening way…
The movie Enemy by Denis Villeneuve, based on ”The Double”, a book written by José Saramago, is a really down to earth movie about doppelgängers. We all know that according to the legend there can only be one remaining but you don’t get that feeling watching the movie at first. It helps a lot to know that some spiders kill the male after mating but I think here it is more about finding which male is better suited for remaining at the side of the female. The spider scene at the beginning that really feels like some kind of blend between ”Eyes Wide Shot” and something out of a David Lynch movie like ”Mulholland Drive” sets out the tone for the rest of the movie but in a less surreal way. We are tricked into thinking that the main character, who’s a history(!) teacher, reveals how the movie’s plot will unfold when he mentions Marx: ”Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as a farce.” Adding on a subsequent course that numerous governments have tried to control and restrain all opposition by lowering the education level, trying to erase all form of culture and forbid any means of self-expression, etc.. Food for thoughts on many levels here by the way…
In fact it’s quite the contrary and what’s starts out as farce that seems to follow something out of a movie like ”Trading Places” ends up in a tragedy. The ending will leave you dumbfounded and wondering… Not because you haven’t got all the answers but more because of the nature of the answers that have been provided to you. Jake Gyllenhaal is perfect for the role and really gives out an amazing performance here. Just like the movie, it won’t compute right away but it will stay with you and you will keep thinking about it again and again until you watch it once more… Gyllenhaal perfectly renders the subtlety between 2 identical person whom have a very slightly different behavior nuanced only by a different social and cultural background status between two physically identical characters. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, Enemy takes place in a very normal setting that makes you very emotionally involved and I could really identify with the emotions and actions taken by the teacher, which is obviously the most likeable of the two doppelgängers, the other one being a movie star. So you have on one hand, one guy that observes and teaches humankind and whose mission is to perpetuate culture versus another guy that is an actor of one aspect of popular culture. It made me reflect on if I would prefer to be a witness of that culture or on of its instrument, no matter how insignificant I could seem to be (he’s a second to third-rate actor as he is told by is mother played my no other than Isabella Rossellini). I’m still wandering what is the other dimensions played by the spider… Anyways, I sure enjoyed watching and thinking about ENEMY, which strangely enough, left me thinking that it’s a movie that I wouldn’t be at ease to speak about with anyone, unlike most movies I like. I just don’t know why… It’s as if I had a spider wondering around and parts of my thinking process, restraining my means of self-expression… What kind of control is symbolised by this huge spider?? Is it politic? Genetic? Cultural? What controls your mind and prevents you from expressing yourself to the fullest? The spider representing here a lot more just a mother deciding who should be a father and is best suited for the survival of the fittest. We enter here the heart of the models proposed by society as being the most efficient, a guy that has a deeper sense of his place in this world but who’s profession is purely iconic. That’s weird… Nothing to do with strength or politics… Just looks and a sense of awareness… Let’s keep going..
That leads me to another movie by Richard Ayoade featuring Jesse Eisenberg about the same subject. The social differences theme is more obvious in this one and a lot of it has to do with the tyrannical workplace, taking place in a communist country. Not surprising since its based on an adaptation of The Novella by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The rivalry between the two identical characters is more obvious as are the mental differences between the 2 as they are as opposites in their personality as they are identical physically. There is no attempt to explain the origin of this double and it’s more a comedy than philosophical. What stroke me in this one is that I was rooting for the ”evil one”, he was doing way better than its original and you tell yourself ”c’mon man!! It’s not even going to hurt!” . So the Doppelganger is in fact far better socially equipped for life and love than its weaker but human counterpart and that’s troubling because I never rooted for a zombie before even thought they are both suppose to represent what our society of consumption has done to our essence as human beings. This movie doesn’t leave you wondering unlike the Enemy but still isn’t your typical doppelgänger movie in which you must prevent the 2 from meeting, for there can only remain one. I would simply like to point out that the evil double seems here far better at ”living life” than its counterpart. So again we are facing some kind of competition between our inner selves and, according to this movie, forced to redefine our values according to the expectations of society and of the opposite sex, those in turn being in total opposition with any spiritual values as if it was the first phase of something else to come. Doppelgänger would therefore could be the ultimate warning…
I’m now irrevocably drawn to speak about a French/German co-production filmed on location throughout West Berlin by Andrzej Żuławski, ”Possession” (1981) starring Sam Neil and Isabelle Adjani. In much the same way that Possession blurs and blends genres, it also inextricably entangles the personal and the political. You see, Zulawski made this film while in the middle of a divorce. In all honesty, this is one of the most crude and truthful attempts at capturing those last moments in a relationship when one of the members decides they simply don’t want to be with the other. The love, the lust is no longer there anymore. As a portrait of a relationship collapsing into madness the film would be strong enough meat, but underscoring the drama are a number of potent metaphoric strands whose purpose and interrelationship require at least two viewings to untangle and fully appreciate. Chief amongst these is a fascination with duality, appropriate in an ideologically and physically divided city (this choice of location was a deliberate political statement on the exiled Zulawski’s part), which is most literally realised in the figure of warm and kind-hearted schoolteacher Helen, who bonds with the couple’s young son Bob and is an idealised dead ringer for Anna and at one point looks set to replace her in the family unit. It’s uncertain whether this visual similarity to Anna is actually the product of Mark’s own loneliness and wish fulfilment or a genuine doppelgänger whose male equivalent is slowly taking shape in Anna’s bedraggled apartment, a creature born of Anna’s unhappiness and neurosis (given disturbingly gooey shape by master creature creator Carlo Rambaldi). God this movie in itself explains the basis of these new kind of doppelgänger movies, even if it was made in 1981 I intended to talk about control earlier but Zulawski’s films are never about control. In fact, they are always about going overboard.
Possession by Andrzej Żuławski featuring Sam Neil (a spy!) and an absolutely stunning performance by Isabelle Adjani is about, amongst many other things, doppelgängers. It takes place in Berlin, Germany being a country that reflects that double identity, East and West Germany being back then still a divided city or a double city, depending on how you see things… The script is about a couple that is about to explode because the wife (Adjani) is being unfaithful and the husband can’t recognize in this new version of his wife, the girl he married, however hard he tries. It’s very heart wrenching to watch their love being ripped apart in pieces, themselves behaving and acting like they never have before, becoming a new version of themselves that they had never experienced before. As the story evolves you discover that the title has 2 meanings: the fact that you become jealous and possessive over your not so tender half and possession in the sense that its like something is, if not demonic, at least monstrous sense, taking hold of the mind and body of the wife as the husband discovers that she is not cheating on him only with another man but with some kind of extra terrestrial tentaculous creature that has total control over her mind. The innovation in this movie is that you kind of see the doppelgänger in the making as each new character becomes a new person that can never go back to their old self after these events have taken place. As you watch doppelgänger movies you sometimes have the urge to tell them to just give up since their double seems to be doing far better than them but in this movie, neither the old nor the new version holds salvation in any kind. So we have here 3 variations on a same theme that in my opinion should offer a lot of interesting avenues for horror movies since we have gone through all the possible scenarios pertaining to vampires, werewolves and zombies.
The old doppelgänger scenario was that, somewhere in the world, there is a version of that is your physical clone and if it finds you and that you dare look at it in the eyes, you will be replaced. What it implied remains somehow nebulous but fact is that you, in your essence would disappear. Then, it later got to you will disappear but be replaced by something much more socially viable than your old self, full of uncertainties and weaknesses so you will die but something that looks like you will live your life for you and will do it much better than you do and this other you will have much more success and you will look like a page of a fashion magazine, people will think you’re a star!! But our stupid old imperfect self is putting up a fight with this doppelgänger because it still isn’t going to be us. In fact we would be replaced by a selfish, psychopathic, egotistical maniac which seems to be the role model of the new politicians, successful entrepreneurs and CEO of the world we live in today. These new standards are constantly established by publicists, designers, organizers of the elite so that you serve their interests better because finance is slavery… Day after day we are reminded of the human standards for happiness established by corporations who are selling us a dream. We are no longer a human being but this idea of the ideal human being according to the last update of the American Dream. The problem being precisely that it has become more and more unreachable and that the last updates have nothing whatsoever to do with the spiritual values and emotions that makes you who you are. It seems that your very essence is incessantly becoming obsolete. These dreams and ideals that are proposed to us are not us but we can feel ourselves being pushed in our last tranches, hidden within ourselves as we are being replaced by a seemingly better version of ourselves, wether or not we agree is irrelevant since its being done subconsciously. Should you give in to your well-functioning but psychopathic doppelgänger and willingly look at yourself in the eyes and disappear or should you put up a fight? Is it better to be unhappy but successful or living in accordance to what you are deep inside and be disdained by those who have seemingly succeeded socially? One thing is for sure, it sure is an upgrade from being a zombie, esthetically. I will leave you with a scene from Sion Sono’s Suicide Club which raises the guilty conscience aspect in a very urgent manner…
As a conclusion, I am convinced that brainless zombies have been replaced by something more intelligent, insidious and believable that could easily appear to be more functional, even if they definitely have all the attributes of psychopaths. I have been watching loads of movies involving doppelgänger in one form or another; twins, doubles, humanoids, replicas, or simply the same person trapped in a vortex, a time loop, the future or the past and the message is always the same: the doppelgänger always seemed to be more adapted and succeeding than the original ”us” that are very often plagued by a trauma, weaknesses, lack of confidence, suggesting the idea that those psychopaths version of us are better adapted to succeed in this life and age, an era of greed and selfishness, than their original, weak, sensitive, flawed human counterparts… Furthermore I came to the conclusion that each of us, really do have a doppelgänger, each of them existing in a synchronous universe, one that is part of absolutely vital to our lives: the digital world. This corresponding double has unlimited data about us, making each and every human being on this planet very vulnerable. A large number these movies are based on a simple question: What would happen to us if some agency or hacker would simply erase us, or transform us in some dangerous criminal. TO many maybe that sounds total;y taken from a science fiction novel but I am not. I totally believe that it could be done easily, especially by agencies like the NSA, MI6, or even by some skilled teenager who happens to be a skilled hacker.
I am very curious to see if in which direction and how far this new doppelgänger trend will be heading from now on, I also am very curious to see if I,m the only one so please do share with me your thoughts on the doppelgänger trend and how significant it is, while keeping in mind these theories I just shared with you. Now for sure I’m obviously not the first one keeping an eye out for what ”X” is trying to whisper in our ears but I really do think that doppelgänger is the most likely to be believed, based on the premises that the world being such large place, it’s very easy to fathom that someone, somewhere looks exactly like us… Please do share you thoughts in the comment section, I would really like to know if anything I’ve said rang a bell..or not.
10 thoughts on “The New You?”
I pretty much love anything Jesse Eisenberg is in, but not sure I am ready for this one!
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It really is not scary!! there are 3 seprate movies I’m talking about here and The Double is in fact quite funny,, unlike Possession. whixh is quite troubling..
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I’m still thinking about this line, “numerous governments have tried to control and restrain all opposition by lowering the education level, trying to erase all form of culture and forbid any means of self-expression, etc..” It’s gotta’ be a huge red flag when self-expression in any form is forbidden. For me, at least, self-expression is a fundamental human characteristic and need. It’s also fulfillment.
I was wondering where you were going to got with the doppleganger analogy. In the end we become our own dopplegangers replacing our younger, more authentic selves, with a more conformist, successful, responsible, parental version. Uuuuuh. I don’t think I’ve made the transition yet.
Intriguing ideas and I want to watch those movies, particularly the spider one. I’d also be more interested in some of your personal thought and philosophy, how you are grappling with the big issues, what theories you are working with, and so on.
I recently did a movie review about a Chinese movie, “Beautiful Accident”. It’s about a woman who dies and ends up in another life (as an adult, mind you). You might find that related and interesting. There are two identical women in two different lives.
I’m also fascinated by these issues and how who one is, or rather one’s life, can change so dramatically with circumstances. As you probably know I’m an expat. My life in China was very different that it is now, for example. All the people, the environment, the job, the language, and the food changed. I’ve had several large changes where everything around me significantly changed, and yet part of me always remains the same.
I don’t know if you’ve seen a new series of images I’m making also relating to this idea. They are self-portraits, but none of them are really me. They are versions, old, young, female, etc. They all contain the stain of my core identity, but I push how far I can make them not me while still being me.
Again, intriguing post, and it makes me want to delve into philosophical ideas.
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Wow someone actually reads what I write!! HAHA! I know most people read when its about music and stuff but I wasn,t sure yet if people really paid attention to my thoughts and rants so I first want to thank you for taking the time!! And yes you are not far off from what I meant excpet its not only us repacing us but also each new generation replacing the other with each time a regenrated reinforced focus towards buying and looking ggod and what was said about zombies representing a society that lives without a clear focus..an empty heart and an empty head only attracted by what attracts the others… Except now it has gone a step further… Doppelganger s push it a step further by presenting an image of us that is no longer repulsive but rather polished by publicists, branding, etc.. But I get it that you misunderstood me and I will rewrite it so that it gets clearer. Thanks for making me realise this. You are absolutely right in your persecption and I admit it is misleading… I am always delighted to hear from you and I very often wish we would have a chat more often! Can you link me to your new protraits please? I would very much like to see them!! I have probaly not seen them.. I love your paintings and like I said I think of you here and there and I was thinking of you recently as I was listening again and again to The Outer Limits, one of my favorite Voivod Album because it has such a particuliar feel to it. I’m glad you liked this articvle because I intend to post more and more original stuff form now on . I have been very happy and fortunate lately with my blog that seems to draw more and more people and attention to it. I have many ideas to make it even more interesting. Thank God for people like you who really take the time to check out what I am trying to do here…. I have been toying with the philospphy behind doppelgangers for awhile now and I finally gathehre dthe courage to write it down, hoping that it wouldn,t bew too boring. PLZ link me to your paintings!! I shall look at them tomorrow because I have been working on this article all day and other stuff too… More to come… I have been at my computer for at least 13 hjours traight now!! So I wil be glad to have a chat with you tomorrow!!! PLZ LINK ME my friend!! TTY tomorrow!!Peace out!
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Here’s the latest portrait (#14), and it has a gallery with all the others in it: https://artofericwayne.com/2018/04/13/new-art-selfies-from-alternate-universes-14-mad-as-hell/
I woke up thinking about your doppleganger theory and how fresh generations replace preceding ones. I had about a 20 minute reverie regarding it. There’s so much there to ponder.
Yeah, your blog is one of the most unique and interesting out there. I’m not as good at keeping up with other people’s blogs as I should be, but I’ve only discovered a handful that are really interesting for me over the long haul. There were more but some people stopped writing or made their account private.
Voivod is a permanent presence on my play lists and I therefore listen to them intermittently all the time. Their phenomenon has become a musical touch stone for me. They define a certain paradigm or angle of vision.
Keep up the writing!
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You comments give me so much go ahead man!! You really are someone profound and I value your opinions so much so I’m even more flattered by what you’re saying about me and my blog because i know it,s 100% sincere and that you have really looked at it with a really critical eye, not in a bad way, I just mean that you pondered on it and it stuck for some reason. Some things get under your skin. Some right away, some afte awhile but in the long run its what passes the test of time. Voivod is band like that. I was so lucky to have worked for them and get to know them even before they got to be known. OI was so happy that after a recently posted a picture of the set while shooting their clip Psychic Vacuum that the basseman Blacky (Jean-Yves) recognized the pictures and me and wrote on comment saying how wonderful memories he has of that day. From these guys emanated such a kool energy. I will try to get to see him again and maybe he.ll give me an interview, there’s so much I want to ask him since I haven,t seem him for such a long time!! He has traveled the world since then and I know when I’m going to see him it,s goimng to be as we had seen each other yesterday. Anyways… I really needed that ray of sunshine you provoided me today my friend. I’m taking it all in and it will stay with me as I,m going to write an artilce about Charle dyuchaussois who wrote an autobiography called ”Flash ou Le Grand Voyage”, he’s French but they kept the same title in the English translation. Definitely a page turner… when you start reading that book you just can,t put it down… God the guy is not a writer but it’s so blunt bold and honest.. And the stories are simply incredible…Out of this world.. The book mainly describes his trip to Liban, Turkey, Marrocco, Kuweit, India and then Katmandu that was the ultimate hippie destination in 1969 but he wasn’t a hippie. He was a adventurer, a drug user and dealer, a rebel without a cause and he ends up in such despair man… it’s just heart wrenching at times… There’s a pssage in which he decides that he,s had enough and he decides to do like many others used to do back then and go up in a certain mountain and die from an overdose while the sun goes up in a temple devoted and inhabited my monkeys. Also earlier on he gets paid to lead a french reporter to go take pictures in India in a temple where they put their deads and just leave them up to die under the sun. They are called death Towers and are incredibly well garded by dogs, bear traps and guardians doing rounds with a rifle that they will not hesite one second to use if you trespass a certain distance from the towers at any time of day or night… I wil not tell youhow this ends but … Yeah.. So I,m going to look at your pics now and comment about this now!! Have a wonderful day and Thank You so much for uptlifting my spirits as you did. I really take it all in and really appreciate it!!
Wow!! This is so weird because I was talking about Network 2 days ago with one of my friend!! I love that movie and your painting is staggering!!! Man I love this because this is a new style for you if i’m not mistaken and I absolutly adore the turn you have taken for that painting!! Same for the protraits!! I always have been a fan of portraits and I think it,s really hard to make a photo really interesting unless there is a living creature on it. of course you can make kool pics fo strucutres and textures but it will never be as kool as if there’s ahuman being in it.. I would definitely liek to feature you in some way on LAn if its ok with you?? Do you have an idea of what works you would like to talkpresent?? Or would you rather do it exclusively on yours?? My idea would be to tpresent those last paintings, headlining with the Networlk one and ading the best protraits you have recently done too, incorporating it all in an interview orrather a Q and A… Think about it and please get back to me. I’m being 100% sincere too and has nothing to do with the fact that we have become friends. I totally like what you do and you took a recent turn that is rigth up my alley!
Glad you like them. I haven’t been sure that these work for other people other than myself. In one of the earlier posts about them I mentioned that I very rarely do self-portraits, and there’s probably a whole decade where there isn’t a photo of me, because I also tend to not like to be photographed. I don’t take selfies (until now) and when I first saw an add for selfie sticks I laughed, thinking it was a joke. I don’t celebrate my birthday if I can help it, either. But when I discovered this app I had to fuck with it because, as an artist who works digitally and has done facial morphs in the past (ex., a Bush/Obama morph) the possibilities were interesting. But then I found the images the neural network produced sometimes uncanny, and decided to work with them.
Perhaps this series can work for other people in that when you deal with the individual and self-hood, it can seem too particular except that it is also universal: everyone is an individual with a relation to his or her self. And this is something I’ve been thinking about politically, which also relates to what you wrote about some governments forbidding self expression. Possibly the greatest achievement of Western civilization is the exultation of the individual, and the attempt to insure individual rights and freedoms. We are seeing that getting curtailed now, stupidly.
Anyway, yeah, I’m up for an interview. We might wanna’ wait a bit until I do some more because I’ve got some surprises in store. I’m at 15 now. I’m thinking I might do 30. But, we could also recap later on in the series after it has developed more. I’ll shoot you an email.
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Here’s a new category page I created for the series. Individual posts have a lot more info, process pics, close-ups, and so on. I don’t think this series has caught on with even my followers yet, but I have hope for it.
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