Seemingly out of pity, James attempts to help Simon woo the woman he loves, Hannah; but soon after Simon perceives that James has not only moved romantically in on Hannah, but has used some of Simon’s own words to describe his feelings. James has also taken Simon’s inefficiency report directly to the Colonel, garnering him further acclaim within the halls of this ambiguous business. Although none of his fellow employees seem to be able to recognize that the two men look alike, Simon and James find that not only do they share appearances, but they share, so it seems, the functions of their bodies, as Simon grows violent and attempts to destroy his double.
Although Kafka does not seem far away from the bureaucratic ridiculousness of Golyadkin Jr./ Golyadkin Sr. tale of Dostoevsky, the various intense encounters Simon has with authority throughout the film, only reiterates his own nerdish sensibilities, without particularly offering us new insights into James’ condition. Ayoade does, through at least two scenes, takes his character back into the horrific relationship he has had with his mother, but other than her being a kind gorgon who can enjoy nothing in life, she seems, living in a perverse nursing home, to be basically far-removed from his current life, and he seems to have a perspective about it that allows him to distance himself from her oppressive demands. And what are we to make, finally, about the whole sequence of life and death events between the two major figures, with its vaguely vampire-like implications?
If Ayoade, at times, seems like a talented director, he is also a sometimes amateur one, who is still unable to make all the references that apparently so charm him cohere. There are many pleasing elements in The Double, the comic-seriousness of its tone, the slightly estranged landscape it creates, and the oppositional characters it represents; but at moments this movie seems to be pulling in too many directions at all once, forcing some of its elements into highly symbolical significance, while rendering other aspects into something like comic riffs to which the director never returns.