Richard Ayoade might be best known as Moss from The IT Crowd — but he's also the co-creator of the sublime horror spoof Garth Marenghi's Dark Place, and director of the movie Submarine. And now he's crafting a dark doppelganger story, The Double, based on a Dovstoevsky tale.
The Double, starring Jesse Eisenberg, is out in the U.K. now, and comes out in the United States on May 9. Here's a synopsis, via the The Independent:
Eisenberg plays Simon James, a gutless, socially awkward office drone for whom even simple tasks such as ordering food or entering an elevator become a fraught challenge of hesitation and anxiety. Out of nowhere, along comes James Simon, also played by Eisenberg. He's confident, charming, instantly popular, and rapidly achieves everything his hapless counterpart craved, including the affections of Simon's colleague Hannah (Mia Wasikowska). Of course, nobody ever remarks that Simon James and James Simon look identical – principally because nobody has noticed Simon James even exists.
Reviews in the U.K., in the past week or so, have been mostly upbeat, if not thundering. Here's The Guardian:
A dab hand at dramatising absurdist paranoia, Ayoade fills the future-retro landscape with sounds and visions lifted from Terry Gilliam's Brazil and David Lynch's Eraserhead, with effective if derivative results. Eisenberg does sterling work as the central split personality, conjuring two distinct characters who play off each other with well choreographed ease.
Ayoade's care with the movie's craft is loving and infectious – the feel of a hermetic, Stygian netherworld is perfectly achieved on the budget, and a grippingly nervy chamber score by Andrew Hewitt keeps it ticking along.
Notably, this film features low-fi visual effects from Framestore, the company that put Sandra Bullock in space for Gravity. And they avoided the obvious solution for putting two Jesse Eisenbergs on screen together — greenscreen — and went with something much, much more complicated, according to Techradar:
"Normally, a quick way round it would have been to shoot one actor on green screen and then key them off," Matt Clarke, VFX supervisor, explained. "But Richard isn't a fan of green screen anyway, because he often can see the spill and you find yourself obsessing about edges that are there that shouldn't be." Instead, the scenes with two Jesses in were shot as though there were two actors on set, using a mixture of motion control cameras that can repeat the same move exactly multiple times, a body double and a technique called rotoscoping.
Rotoscoping is a 100-year-old process that basically now involves cutting out one Jesse Eisenberg and sticking him into a scene with the other Jesse Eisenberg. Every scene had to be shot twice very precisely, with Eisenberg using an earpiece to act 'against' himself. "There was also talk of a CG head at one point," Clarke adds, casually. "We do have a scan of Jesse's head somewhere, but we never used it."