Double Take

Double Take

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"If you ever meet your doppelgänger, you're supposed to kill him - or he's supposed to kill you. I forget which way round it is, but the point is, two of you is one too many."

Alfred Hitchcock presents...

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Based on the Jorge Luis Borges essay 25 August, 1983, Double Take is set in 1962 - or possibly 1980, as will become clear - when the master of suspense is filming The Birds. As fans will know, Hitchcock liked to have a cameo role in all his films. In this instance he is directing a body double in his role as he sets up an early shot, when a mysterious phone call lures him away to a lonely production office. "That's odd sir," says the doorman. "I thought you'd already gone up."

Adapting The Birds from Daphne du Maurier's novel, Hitchcock drew upon a real life incident in the California town of Capitola where poisoning apparently drove local birds mad and sent hem slamming into rooftops. Despite recognising their peril, the birds were unable to steer any other course.

At first the course that Double Take steers will seem haphazard. Alfred Hitchcock (or one of several people who can be Alfred Hitchcock as the occasion requires) narrates the increasingly sinister story of his encounter with an older man who claims to be him, and who insists it is 1980. Elsewhere, the world of 1962 is troubled. The Russians are ahead in the space race. Never fear, Nixon boasts, for America has the miracle of colour television. It's television that sinks Nixon, who came across so well on radio, in his famous debate with Kennedy. Meanwhile, The Bay of Pigs debacle ensues. Families stock up on food and learn the drill for retreating to nuclear fallout shelters whilst politicians from either side match each other's insincere grins in a curious doppelgänger effect. The tension is escalating, real and fictional.

To increase our viewing pleasure, Mr Hitchcock explains, advertisements will appear at intervals throughout this film. They're knowingly twee, stereotypical, comic. The audience I saw this with laughed out loud. Gradually they, too, become more sinister.

Not everybody will cope with Double Take. Some will find the apparently random nature of its early scenes so irritating that they'll just give up. But there will almost certainly be others who will consider this to be one of the best films they have ever seen. Like the best Hitchcock thrillers, it will have you glancing nervously over your shoulder. What is the familiar silhouette near the fire exit? A rotund looking man with a cigar... no, wait! It shifts. It might just be your own shadow.

Reviewed on: 02 Mar 2010
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As Cold War tensions rise and the world teeters on the brink of destruction, Alfred Hitchcock meets his double.
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Director: Johan Grimonprez

Starring: Ron Burrage, Mark Perry

Year: 2009

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: Belgium, Germany, Netherlands


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If you like this, try:

The Birds
Inland Empire
Performance