The Double movie explained: What was it about?

I watched the movie The Double last week. After watching it, I went to read about it and came across a question from someone on Stack Exchange Movies. So I started out writing my thoughts about whether or not James was real, as well as an idea I had about what was going on in the movie. I ended up re-watching it and writing an explanation for what I think was happening in the movie.

I definitely recommend the movie so go check it out sometime if you haven’t. The movie is kind of about self-improvement, as I think the main character is struggling and trying to improve his life. He runs into some serious personal problems trying to make his life better. However, I really just wrote this because I wanted to. It is a little off-topic, so the post is hidden from being displayed on the homepage of Life Thinkist. Enjoy.

Who is James in “The Double (2013)”?

I saw the movie The Double this morning, a very strange movie. I didn’t understand the exact plot of the movie. I’ve read the plot in IMDB and Wikipedia too, but I don’t get it. Can somebody explain this movie in simple English? My main question is “Who is James and does he really exist?”

Outline

  • What Do I Think?
  • What Do I Know For Sure?
  • Is James Real?
  • Are The Scenes Real?
  • What Might Not Be Real?
  • What Is The Opening Plot?
  • What Is Just In Simon’s Head?
  • What Is Really Going On In Real Life?
  • When And Why Does Simon Become James?
  • Why Do We See Both Simon And James?
  • How Does Simon Become James?
  • What Would James Do?
  • Does He Choose Simon or James?

What Do I Think?

I think it’s possible that James isn’t a real physical person separate from the original character Simon, but that much of what James does in the film does actually happen. This is because Simon and James are two personalities of one main character. Sometimes he’s actually doing things as Simon, and sometimes he actually does things as James. And sometimes we’re also getting a second physical representation of him but it is only his thoughts as Simon, or sometimes his thoughts as James.

On top of that, I’ll add the idea that much of the movie is not literally real but simply Simon’s thoughts about things that have happened to him. And sometimes even things that haven’t even happened to him. Sometimes parts of scenes are simply internal dialogue in his head about what he thinks, what he thinks other people think, and what his other personality thinks. I’ll explain a bit more of what I think is really going on and give examples.

What Do I Know For Sure?

I know nothing for sure. As people have said it’s probably ambiguous on purpose and left for people to decide for themselves. I just watched the movie but haven’t read the book, so I don’t know as much as someone who has read the book, and I haven’t over-analyzed the movie by watching too many times. I watched the first half or so over again to write this. This is just one idea I had that is maybe a little different than just the two options I’ve read. That either James is a real person or that James is not real at all and none of it really happens because it’s all just in his head.

Is James Real?

So here is a possible interpretation. It’s about a guy that develops two personalities. James is Simon. Simon is becoming James. Sometimes in the movie he’s Simon, and sometimes he’s James. There aren’t really two of him at all. He’s not actually seeing a doppelganger who looks just like him or who he thinks is similar but more more successful than him. But we are really just getting a look into Simon’s thoughts and a portrayal of his life as he struggles between two personalities. The reason we see two people is because Simon separates into two people in his own mind, and we get his thoughts or viewpoint from the other personality.

When Simon decides to become the more confident and cocky James, he never quite feels like he’s himself. He always feels like he is pushing his old self and personality aside. So we continue to see Simon and get his real thoughts about what he is doing as this new personality, James. He feels like he is outside of himself watching himself when there are scenes with both of them. He is acting as James often, but we hear his thoughts and see his feelings about how he is acting from his real and original personality, Simon. And sometimes he’s doing things as Simon, and James is in his head telling him what to do or what James thinks. I’ll explain when exactly and why Simon develops this new personality James.

Are The Scenes Real?

So in my interpretation, I’m suggesting that many scenes are just a picture or portrayal of how Simon sees these different events that have happened to him, things he has done, and the situation he finds himself in. Different things do happen that we can pick from here and there, but many scenes are used just to tell the story overall and see things that Simon has done or things that have happened to him. I’m basically saying that much of the movie doesn’t really happen as we see it, so it’s not literally real. If you can make that leap, then it could become a bit more clear about what might have been real and what might just be Simon’s thoughts and internal dialogue about things that have happened.

And that is exactly what many scenes are. Not only are scenes from Simon’s perspective, but they are simply his thoughts about what happened or how he remembers them. So sometimes people don’t really say what they say, or do exactly what they do, or look exactly like they look in the film. It’s only an interpretation of how Simon sees them, or how he felt like in the situation. And some scenes didn’t even happen at all but are simply made up possibilities in his head, and his own thoughts about things. What other characters are saying in a scene may sometimes just be a chance to tell us “what he thinks they think”. Or even just what he thinks about something that happened even though it’s coming from someone else’s mouth. I’ll give examples.

Picking what little bits might have happened exactly and what is simply Simon’s thoughts can almost become a bit of a game. It might not be important knowing exactly what scenes, parts of scenes, or dialogue are actually real and what is Simon’s thoughts about it. But just know that the movie may not at all be like a fly on the wall camera viewing an actual scene. That’s why some things look so odd, like the whole atmosphere and the way people look and talk. We may only be getting what Simon saw when he experienced the event, not the actual scene. You can decide for yourself what might have actually happened, and what might be just Simon’s thoughts. But getting it all correct is almost impossible. I’ll give a few thoughts throughout this overview on what parts of the film might be Simon’s thoughts versus things that actually happened, but by no means am I saying I’m correct for sure.

What Might Not Be Real?

I’ll sprinkle in examples in this article, but here are a few ideas in one place to get your mind going. Just in case you watch the movie again and think this interpretation might be correct, or at least possible.

It starts in the first scene where he is kicked off the bus. Is it possible that a guy did ask him to move, but that the subway was actually full of people, including the girl? Watch how Simon looks around throughout the scene. All he really sees is the jerk that asked him to move, but doesn’t he look as if he he feels embarrased and looks around and acts like other people are on the subway? Later on the guy that stops him from entering at work, which he sees throughout the movie is not the same person, no? Another example that we are just seeing what he sees or remembers about events, not exactly what happened.

Does his boss really talk like a walking metaphor of work life? Maybe it’s just in his head that way? Could scenes like the one with his boss capture his thoughts about a number of different events at work? Is everyone at work really old except him, or is he just imagining growing old working there? Do you really think 2 guys handle only suicides from just one neighbourhood? That whole scene, including him talking to the girl seem very odd. Could it be only his thoughts and not real? Maybe the scenes in the cafe are not real, but only his thoughts. Maybe Simon’s scenes with the girl are only what he thinks she thinks of him.

Don’t the scenes at the ball seem particularly odd? The way the girl at the entrance talks, the music playing, how he bends down to look through a hole, and everyone is old but him and the girl. Could much of this just be grandiose thoughts made up in Simon’s head to explain some other reason why he wasn’t allowed into an employee event? Maybe the guy with the moustache is not real at all, and only Simon’s thoughts. Maybe his boss in later scenes is more like his brain talking to the Simon personality. Why are there only one set of footsteps when both Simon and James are in a scene? Is it possible that Simon or James aren’t both there, but that one of them are his thoughts about what he is doing?

What Is The Opening Plot?

Simon hates his life. He is sick of his monotonous job. He is sick of his overbearing Mom. He is sick of his idiotic boss. He lets people push him around. One day a guy actually tells him to move out of the seat he is sitting in on the subway and he moves, but he resents it. He has good ideas to improve efficiency at work, but his boss won’t listen to him. Most people don’t even recognize him at work even though he has worked there for 7 years. He pays whatever the people taking care of his Mom tell him to pay even though they are robbing him and he is spending much of his money to take care of his Mom.

But Simon likes a girl at work who he has never really talked to. In fact, she doesn’t even know who he is, even though he has been watching her at work. He becomes even more infatuated with her because he lives across the street from her. He looks into the window of her apartment after work and gets to see even more about her life than he would know at work. He tries to keep himself from watching her by watching TV, but he can’t help himself.

What Is Just In Simon’s Head?

Simon starts to see things or remember things a little oddly and quite negatively. He sees all people who carry out negative actions towards him as being the same guy, even though it’s not. Through his Mom’s friend which may or may not be a real person, he finds out that even his Mom thinks he’s weird or different, and he takes this to heart. He remembers certain events that embarrassed him or made him feel stupid and replays them in his head. These different events which he sees in a very negative way start adding up to an even more miserable life for him.

But he likes that girl. The next scenes near the beginning where he talks to the girl at length may not be real at all if you ask me. This includes the first suicide scene, the scene where he talks to the police and the girl, and the scene after that in the cafe talking to her. These scenes are simply Simon’s thoughts. He is imagining what would happen if he were to kill himself and what the girl might think of him at this point.

The scene when he talks to the girl on the street after the suicide portrays one negative side where she simply doesn’t know him at all. The scene after that when they talk in the cafe portrays another option where she thought he was stalking her. This scene also includes foreshadowing of his thoughts to move into her apartment building. The cafe scene also shows a more positive possibility and how he might hope she would be around him if things were to go well with her if he ever talked to her. She says “Thanks for this.”, smiles at him, and acts like they are on a regular date. Much of what she says in the film to “Simon” here and in later scenes is simply Simon’s thoughts about what he either thinks or wishes that she thinks of the real Simon personality.

What Is Really Going On In Real Life?

But up to this point he never really talks to the girl in real life at work, even though he has gone to her to make copies for him a couple times. She probably doesn’t know who he is. But she might see him every once in awhile. He hides and watches her sometimes when she leaves work. He looks at her on the subway ride home. In his mind, time almost stops when he sees her, and all he sees is her. He sees her get off the subway when she goes to work. He isn’t quite sure if she ever catches or sees him watching her or if she knows who he is. Of course, he watches her in the evenings in her apartment too, which is why he becomes a little obsessed with her.

Simon makes excuses in his head for why he hasn’t tried to talk to the girl. One day maybe someone was moving some stuff onto the subway in front of him when he saw her get off so he couldn’t. He exaggerates in his mind how many boxes they moved onto the subway, as this is his thoughts about what happened, not exactly as it happened. Then it’s that he gets stuck too long checking into work. If it’s not one thing then it’s another, like the elevator door closing too quickly before he could get in with her. But even when he gets up the courage to go see her at work where she makes copies, he doesn’t say anything to her except “Copy”.

When And Why Does Simon Become James?

Simon decides to change and becomes what we see as James after he has a particularly horrible and embarrassing night. Remember he already hates his life and is beginning to see some things oddly. However, he is looking forward to going to the ball, even though it is required that all employees go. He wants to see the girl there, and maybe make his first move to talk to her or get to know her. But they don’t let him in for some reason. He sees her inside but he gets escorted out of the ball and it’s one of the worst nights of his life.

At the end of this scene he says “This is not me. This is not me.” It’s after this event that he goes a little more crazy and decides he’s not going to live this crappy life anymore. That this is not who he really is, “A frumpy looking guy named Simon”, as the waitress in his own head with his own thoughts, had put it. It’s from here on out that he works to change his personality and become James. But he always feels like he’s kind of watching James from his old self and his old personality. He acts more confidently and kind of like a jerk, but he knows he’s not really himself. Later in the film he has a struggle between being this new personality James, or being himself, Simon.

Why Do We See Both Simon And James?

Many scenes after this we are seeing Simon’s view of himself after becoming this new man. But there is not really 2 of him in the scenes since he is now really James. And sometimes he is really Simon, but getting thoughts from James. But we are seeing his struggle as he does the things in life to get ahead as the cool James, even though he’s really not happy being this way. And Simon from this point is just his own thoughts about what he thinks about how he is now acting. And often people he talks to as Simon are probably also his own thoughts about what he thinks about James, and what he thinks other people would think about James.

How Does Simon Become James?

So he decides to make his life better. The scene after he gets escorted out of the ball has him seeing a guy go into the girl’s building and then he goes to his telescope and sees the guy looks just like him. But scenes in the movie are not real, just a portrayal of what happened. In real life what happens is he rents another apartment above the girl’s. This gets him even closer to the girl, and gives him a new place physically to separate himself and help him become this new more confident personality. He had already envisioned himself possibly committing suicide from this apartment even though it hadn’t yet happened.

So the next morning he is trying to become James, and push his old personality Simon to the side. But in real life it’s all just one guy. He hasn’t quite made the transformation yet when the elevator door closes again, but opens back up this time, with the girl inside. But she does smile flirtingly at him, and he does get the nerve to really talk to her for the first time saying “I bought you a present, but I decided it wasn’t appropriate.”

But then his employee card, which metaphorically represents his Simon personality, is cut up and James is introduced at work. Again, it didn’t literally happen exactly like that. It’s a portrayal of his change from being Simon to being James. Or just creating that second personality. And he didn’t literally faint in the office or talk to the guy with the moustache where he said “Don’t you notice something about the new employee? Does he remind you of anyone?”. That’s his own thoughts in his mind, as are a lot of the future scenes with Simon in them. I don’t want to get into what all exactly is real and not real. But the guy with the moustache could not be real at all and represent his own thoughts.

What Would James Do?

Remember how his life sucked and nobody knew who he was when he was Simon? Well that all changes. Now he’s cool and confident. Now he acts in ways which get him noticed in every situation in his life he used to hate and get no respect. He tells the waitress at the cafe she better darned well get what he wants. He schmoozes with the boss and the boss not only remembers him but thinks he’s the best employee ever. He hits on the boss’s daughter. He gets a promotion at his job from the work his old personality Simon did. He kicks the Simon personality to the side, even though he still has the thoughts of Simon in his head. He feels like he is watching himself from the outside, and often doesn’t like what he is doing as James.

Most importantly he starts to talk to and hit on the girl he likes. He has this new personality which the girl likes. Even though he’s turning into James and acting in these new ways he doesn’t always like it. He’s still really Simon on the inside and he still has the Simon personality. He wants to be himself as Simon especially around the girl but whenever he does things don’t go well. Simon isn’t comfortable enough to talk with the girl so she leaves him at a restaurant. So James has to take over, going so far as to doing things that are mean and cruel to the girl. Simon doesn’t like what James is doing, but being James is the only way he can get ahead in life and get the things he wished for when he was only Simon and wanted to kill himself.

Does He Choose Simon or James?

The rest of the movie is a struggle between his two personalities. I won’t go through the rest of the movie to explain things that are happening, but I’ll add one last thought. Maybe he is struggling to decide which personality he is going to kill. He has quite the decision. If he kills this new fake and arrogant James personality which he doesn’t like, he might be back where he was with a miserable life as Simon. Or he can kill the Simon personality, which might mean he has decided to give up and end his own life as he had previously thought about near the beginning of the film.

The best case would be that he can stop being like Pinocchio, controlled using strings by James. To be himself as Simon and be a real person. But killing just James will not be easy, because he’s now a part of him. He’s going a little crazy and thinks these two personalities are two completely different people. James is trying to take over and it seems like he needs James’ help to get the good things he wants from life, like a promotion at work and the girl. Is he even able to kill James without killing Simon too? What will he choose to do?

What Would You Choose?

I guess one reason that I was really interested in The Double was that I feel like it involved a guy who was struggling to improve his life. He was overwhelmed and in a depression, thinking about ending his life. He may have started trying to improve his personality and what he was doing in order to make his life better. In doing so, he may have created a separate personality which he felt wasn’t himself, and started doing things which he normally wouldn’t do. It’s an interesting balance we need to achieve in life, trying to be our true selves while at the same time trying to improve our personality and our actions to get the things in life which make us happier or more successful. What will you choose to do?

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