What Really Happened in Jake Gyllenhaal’s Enemy Movie?

***Major Spoiler Alert***Do not read this if you don’t want the movie spoiled for you. It contains major spoilers.

enemy-movie

We have met the enemy and he is us.” –Pogo by Walt Kelly, 1971

What Really Happened in Jake Gyllenhaal’s Enemy Movie?

In Enemy, both men (Adam and Anthony) are same man, a married history professor who acts on the side, and fantasizes about having an affair. In the end of the movie, in his fantasy, his girlfriend is killed, but he quickly turns back to his old ways (represented by the most scary movie ending of all time, the giant spider).

Who is his girlfriend?

The girlfriend is not real. When the door buzzes, he doesn’t get up, he goes into his head. She brings over food to his crappy apartment, hangs out, then leaves without a word. It’s all a fantasy.

How do I know they are the same man?

When the two men meet, the first meet the room they meet in is number “221”, which means “two to one”. His mother says he has “a nice apartment, a good job” and that he should quit his dream of acting. When he is with his wife, she asks, “How was school?” She asks him about having an affair.

Reasons why they might not be the same man?

Blueberries – He tells his wife he wants blueberries, but he tells his mother he doesn’t like blueberries.

Unknown Name/Location to Wife? – Anthony makes up the name “Adam Bell” and writes it on a note for his wife to find. She Googles it, goes to the school, and he meets her there (as Adam), but acts (he likes to act) like he doesn’t know her. She can’t believe how far he’s going to perpetuate this fantasy.

Where does he actually live? Which apartment?

In the beginning of the movie we hear Adam’s mother’s voicemail where she sounds Russian like the other guy’s mother where she asks of his “new” apartment “how can you live like that?” and then we see a picture of the pregnant wife sitting on the bed in Adam’s apartment. She only refers to him as “Darling,” but he’s clearly sitting in Adam’s Volvo.

There are two apartments, one “good” and one “bad”. Because he’s a school teacher and acts on the side, because of the way his mother described it (“how can you live like that?”), and because of the shot of his pregnant wife in the background, it’s more likely that he and his wife actually live in the bad one.

Although in the movie, the times we see his wife she in the “good” apartment. This could mean the nice apartment is a fantasy too. But in the movie, his mind places his girlfriend/affair in the bad/real apartment and his actual wife in his good/fake apartment. This could mean he wishes he could provide more to his wife.

How do we know when we’re in a fantasy and when we’re in real life?

There is a definite yellow hue when we see Adam, the school teacher who is with the “girlfriend” in the “bad” apartment and a more ‘normal’, white light when we see Anthony, the actor and his “good” apartment, but this isn’t like the green tint in The Matrix movies. It doesn’t necessarily mean that one is fantasy and the other is real because both have elements of each.

One ‘totem’ (to use Inception vocabulary) is his wedding ring (which just happened to be Cobb’s totem). Adam, the school teacher, doesn’t wear it, but Anthony, the actor does (except for when he’s playing Adam towards the end of the movie – it’s also partially responsible for the ‘crash’ that kills his girlfriend and ‘ends’ the affair).

If this topic interests you, read about more movies that question reality.

What are some motifs in the film?

Hallways – the beginning of the film starts with Adam walking down the hallway with a key while a guard walks behind him. When he sneaks into his own apartment, he doesn’t have the key and has the same security guard behind him who does have the key. These scenes are shot very specifically for the audience to draw the connection between the unknown guy at the beginning of the film at the club and his security guard, but you’d have to watch it again to fully get the connection.

Is there any other scenes that we’re exactly as they appeared in the movie?

In the teacher’s lounge, Adam is asked: “Are you a movie guy? In your free time I mean?” Adam responds, “I don’t know,”, but what I postulate is that the guy asking isn’t real. Here’s why: Adam tells him about a movie he’s recently seen recently that he really liked that he just happened to be in: “Where There’s a Will There’s a Way”.

On his way home he stops by a movie store to see if they have that movie, but they don’t have it. He ends up watching it anyway because he already owns a copy. Even the actor uses a fake name: Daniel Saint Claire. His real name is Anthony Claire.

What are some symbols used in Enemy?

Street Art – On his way home from work, he passes by a mural with the same man drawn multiple times. Behind that mural is the movie store.

Video Cameras – Even the security cameras don’t follow him around. When Adam is checking out Anthony’s apartment, he looks at the security cameras. If he didn’t want to be seen, he should have looked down, not directly at them for so long The director specifically decided to include them in the movie as the shot pans to include them and shows Adam staring at them as he walked by. As an actor, this is a symbol for how he’s not on camera (not working as an actor) as much as he wants to be.

Phones – Adam has a cell phone. He ignores it when his mother is calling at his apartment, but picks it up when Anthony calls him at school, but when he’s calling his wife’s apartment he uses a pay phone first and then a land line at his apartment. Pay phones are often used during affairs, which was highlighted in the movie by the same name.

Any other reasons why Adam and Anthony are the same person?

  • He calls his wife to act like a stalker to sow seeds of doubt about someone calling later on. He’s not home when she calls because he is him.
  • When she visits him at school she calls his cell phone, he answers, but he’s out of sight.
  • When Adam calls Anthony he says he spoke to his “wife”, but how did he know she was his wife?
  • What does the director of the movie think the film is about?

    The director states it’s about a man who decides to leave his mistress and go back to his pregnant wife. I don’t think he actually had two apartments or that he actually left his wife. I think he was just absent from her emotionally. Here’s why: After he turns off the radio after hearing about the accident from his fantasy. He wakes up when thinking about his affair and tells his wife, “I’m sorry.”

    What do you think happened in Enemy?

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty debuted in the United States on December 25, 2013. This review focuses on the how the film is an essay on the transition from analog to digital – made for and by the children of the 70’s (otherwise known as Generation X), the “analog vs. digital” and “disrespect for the past” themes, “the purpose of life”, and symbolism in the film. Most of this is from memory and is my own opinions. I have not read any other reviews on this movie, but have seen the movie and trailers.

* Spoiler Alert * This article contains information about the movie. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, please consider watching it first. * Photos credit 20th Century Fox *

Walter Mitty and Cheryl Melhoff

Generation X

In #Mitty, the movie, the actors and the director are all Generation X. Stiller was born in 1965 and is currently 48 years old. To give you perspective on the person writing this article, I was born in 1980 which makes me part of Generation X, Y, and the Millennial Generation, however I’m most likely Generation Jones. While I was able to pick up on a lot of the references and music used in the film, there are still things that I didn’t ‘get’ like the name on the t-shirt Mitty’s mom kept for him.

The movie is full of references to Generation X. Mitty’s sister is auditioning to be Rizzo in Grease, a movie that came out in 1978. She gets him a Stretch Armstrong (debuted in 1976) doll for his birthday. Mitty has a Jansport hiking bag (popular in the 80’s). At the end of the movie Mitty is wearing a hoodie sweatshirt, a leather strap necklace with a copper hex nut, and friendship bracelets. There are also several scenes referencing “Major Tom“, which is a fictional character created by David Bowie in the late 60’s.

You can always tell about how old you are based on what music appears in commercials and it’s becoming apparent that the markets have begun marketing less to the Baby Boomers and more to their children, Generation X. No where is that more apparent than in this movie, which is filled with product placements tucked in and tied to the story line from eHarmony to Papa Johns to LIFE.com, but with nods to Conan O’Brien, TBS, Cinnabon, Dell, CareerBuilder.com, KFC, Instagram, the iPhone, and American Airlines.

Generation X was the last generation to graduate high school and enter the workforce before cell phones and Internet access became ubiquitous. Ben Stiller’s directorial debut, Reality Bites, which came out in 1994, was the same year Netscape started. The World Wide Web had just begun and yet it was already clear that things were changing. It appears that Ben Stiller, despite the success he’s had since then, still longs for a time when things were more simple, more analog – and is betting his audience does too.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Movie Review

Analog vs. Digital

When Walter Mitty goes to give Rich the longboard at Cheryl’s home, there are at least three 70s-era cars on the street, which is very unusual for a movie set in 2013. In that same scene, on a wall, drawn in chalk is the words, “Here Comes the Sun,” which is an allusion to a Beatles Song of the same name from the album Abbey Road, which came out in 1969. On the cab ride back to his mom’s house, Walter Mitty wants to turn the cab’s digital video off to which the cab driver says ominously, “It stays on.”

Walter Mitty has an analog clock in his apartment (not pictured, but you can hear it ticking in the background) and he wears an analog wristwatch with a leather strap. Although the watch is never specifically referenced in the film, it plays a small part in the short story by James Thurber. For a sense of how Thurber thought about watches, in The Gentleman in 916, he writes, “Even the sound of a wrist-watch prevents me from sleeping, because it sounds like two men trying to take a wheel off a locomotive.”

While Walter Mitty does have a computer, it’s an older model, Dell laptop, which echoes his cell phone, an older flip-style phone. In contrast, Cheryl’s character uses a modern smartphone with Internet access. She still uses terms like “buffering” when searching the Internet (something she probably doesn’t have to do and isn’t a term used much any more). On the flip side, the photographer, Sean O’Connell does not have a phone at all – nor does any place Sean is currently located (ie. a shipping boat).

While on the shipping boat, a deck hand takes a picture with his smartphone for Instagram, and asks to be Facebook friends. This foreshadows Mitty’s meeting with Sean O’Connel in Afghanistan who doesn’t take a picture at all, instead choosing to remember the moment as “me”/himself without the camera. This lost desire to be ‘in the moment’ shares a sentiment with those who identified with Charlene deGuzman and Miles Crawford’s I Forgot My Phone video which  went viral in August of 2013.

Ben Stiller's Secret Life of Walter Mitty Movie

Disrespect for the Past

Walter Mitty works with analog film, something Kodak stopped making in June of 2013. Mitty’s co-worker, Hernando (which means “bold voyager”) has a man-crush on the photographer, O’Connell for still using film, which acknowledges he is well aware that although he is surrounded by film negatives, digital pictures have largely replaced analog film. Mitty states that he has never lost a negative despite “over a million” negatives passing through his care over the last 16 years he worked at TIME magazine.

“Negative Asset Manager” is Mitty’s job title, but it’s also a metaphor for the deprecation of ‘everything that’s come before’. In the final scene of the movie, Mitty tells his former boss that the magazine has been built by many people over a long time, which the new boss is now treating as a negative asset on the balance sheet that needs debited or written off. The message is that businesses are created and ran by people, not balance sheets, and should be treated with more respect, even when things change.

When Mitty’s boss, Ted Hendricks asks Mitty where the picture was, Mitty says it’s in a “silver bath” to which Ted does not even try to understand. He later asks someone else to look it up only to conclude that it “doesn’t exist.” Of course it exists, but simply Googling “silver bath” will only give you shiny pictures of bathroom accessories. You have to know that it was a part of photo processing, which is something older generations, even Generation X, understood – even if only in context.

The most visual disrespect for the past occurs as Mitty is entering LIFE magazine for the last time and movers are literally dropping art onto the floor as they violently remove it from the walls. All of the desks are empty and covered in drop cloths like dead bodies, a symbol for the lost jobs and the lost magazine.  After working at the magazine for over 16 years, during his 17th year, the job ended – a ‘death” which could be a metaphor for the death of his father, which happened when Mitty was 17.

Walter Mitty Purpose of Life

The Purpose of Life

In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty movie, LIFE Magazine’s motto is, “To see things thousands of miles away, things hidden behind walls and within rooms, things dangerous to come to, to draw closer, to see and be amazed.” This motto is written on the wall of the lobby and is repeated in the wallet O’Connell gives Mitty and in the background of the movie as Mitty leaves for Greenland. However, on the wallet, O’Connell added one more sentence, “That is the purpose of life.”

Off the coast of Greenland when Mitty jumps into the ocean, the captain of boat yells, “Don’t fear the porpoise,” which sounds like, “Don’t fear the purpose.” In this movie, Walter Mitty is 42 years old. In real life, Ben Still was 47 at the time of shooting the film. While younger than Brad Pitt, he still may have fears about the purpose of his life, just like Walter Mitty. Just like us. Just like me. He doesn’t want to be the old man bringing the news on a telegram.

Film Symbolism

The most blatant symbolism used in the movie was with allusions to 35 mm film reels and negatives. From the lights in Mitty’s apartment hallway to the windows on the outside of his apartment building, to the dots on the glass in LIFE magazine lobby, to the fuselage of the Greenland airplane at night, the film perforations, also known as perfs or sprocket holes and rectangular acetone film frames themselves were apparent throughout the beginning of the film.

The word “Life” was used throughout the movie, not just as the name of the magazine, but also in conversations Mitty had with Cheryl and his mother. It’s also referenced on the bottom of the longboard Mitty traded for in Iceland. In large print it says, “LIFIO”, which is Icelandic for “can survive”. Similarly, Cheryl comments to Mitty “last in, first out”, which is commonly shortened as “LIFO” in business process management. Find any more? Leave a note in the comments.

Ben Stiller’s Walter Mitty Longboards

UPDATE: Bustin Boards has confirmed that it’s a Bustin Boards Boombox longboard and after seeing the movie, it should be noted that there is only one longboarding scene in Iceland. The other New York scene mentioned in this article is ‘covered’ by CGI which makes it look like Walter Mitty is longboarding on asphalt. All pictures copyright of their individual owners.

Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty Longboarding in Greenland

Ben Stiller stars in and directs The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, where he is seen carrying and riding a longboard skateboard in several parts of the movie. At one point he’s longboarding down a hill in Greenland, while in another scene he’s longboarding down a street in New York City. The 2013 movie, which is based loosely on the original James Thurber short story and the 1947 Danny Kaye film, was filmed in Bronx, New York City, Greenland, and Iceland.

While the movie doesn’t come out in America until December 25, 2013, after watching the trailer I wondered what longboard Ben Stiller was using in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty movie. A reddit thread on longboarding in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty offered up the following clues. According to justchilln, “a Freebord was actually used in a dream sequence in which Mitty is snowboarding down the street of NY. Source- My buddy was the freeboarder.” You can see Ben Stiller filming part of this sequence in New York in this video below.

On June 14, 2012 Silverfish Longboarding posted the above video on Facebook where Jame Ka-stello pointed out, “It’s a Gravity Ed Economy, and Ben can actually skate, modestly as it may be – lets not get too fired up, the wires are there because they use that rig for a lot of stunts. Plus it would suck for ben stiller to catch a stop rock and faceplant I suppose.” And Aj Powell said, “At least he’s riding Paris Trucks“. However, Willy Staley noticed that, “the trucks are on backwards.”

According to user, thewatches, on Reddit, “I saw this movie in a pre-screening in nyc, and it’s fantastic, but they use 3 different longboards in the movie (it’s supposed to be just one board). They change it situationally, some downhill board like a landyachtz or something and two different Bustin boards.” While I couldn’t find a picture of a Land Yachtz longboard skateboard used by Ben Stiller in the Walter Mitty film, the pictures below are most likely a Gravity Ed longboard and a Bustin Maestro Pro longboard.

Ben Stiller Gravity Ed Longboard Ben Stiller Bustin Maestro Pro Longboard
In this image, Ben Stiller is likely riding a Gravity Ed longboard with Freeboard attachments to keep his feet in place. Some have criticized the film for Walter Mitty not wearing a helmet, but in this image he is being hung by wires to keep him up. Originally featured on The Daily Mail on May 7, 2012, Ben Stiller is shown carrying an. “extremely large skateboard over his shoulder”, which is likely a Bustin Boards Maestro Pro Longboard.

M Longboard Industry in France

While I’m not sure how this fits into the story, I did find that on Nov 10, 2013, M Longboard Industry wrote on their Facebook page (translated from French), “What a pleasure when a huge company producing Hollywood knocks on the door of a small workshop shape French … On the occasion of the release of the film “The Life of Walter Mitty” January 1, 2014, 20th Century Fox has decided to win 3, Z-Shape M-longboard-industry autographed by Ben Stiller in person!” and “Ben Stiller on the set of “The Dream Life of Walter Mitty”, on the occasion of the French release January 1, 2014, M-3 longboard longboards industry, the effigy of the film autographed by the actor to be won at the national level through UGC! Soon find all photos of the production of these boards Z-Shape.” The associated picture was that of Ben Stiller holding the sign post, which is a different longboard skateboard than the other two longboards shown.

Ben Stiller Other Longboard

What are the 3 Longboard Skateboards used by Ben Stiller in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty?

I have emailed customer service at Gravity Skateboards, Bustin Boards, Land Yachtz, and M Longboard Industry, but have yet to get a response about if any of their longboard skateboards were used in the Walter Mitty movie. However, both the movie and Bustin Boards are located in New York City so there’s a high probability that the movie used a local company. Gravity Skateboards are out of California, Land Yaachtz are out of Vancouver, BC, and M Longboard Industry is out of France.

  1. Gravity Ed Longboard – used in street scenes in New York city – buy on Amazon.
  2. Bustin Maestro Pro Longboard – used in the downhill scenes in Greenland – buy on Amazon
  3. Either the Land Yachtz Longboard Time Machine or the M Longboard Industry X Board as used in other parts of the film – buy on Amazon.

If you have information about what longboard skateboard was used by Ben Stiller in the 2013 Secret Life of Walter Mitty Film, please let me know in the comments below or on Twitter.

Matt at M Longboard Industry Matt points to this Rad Train article as evidence that Ben Stiller used Dregs Skateboards. I can’t find any hard evidence of that, nor can I find the original Concrete Wave Magazine article that supports it, but I will admit that the Dregs Blade Crest longboard does look a lot like the one used in the film. Josh Dickey, managing editor at The Wrap, said on Twitter that the downhill scene in Greenland features a LandYachts Wolf Shark longboard.

If you’ve seen the movie and know what skateboard Rich is using in the park or think you have a different explanation for the longboard used, please let us know in the comments. Thanks!