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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?"

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Reading the IMDB synopsis, it looks like this is a Fight Club situation where the main character has a dual personality. I haven't seen the movie, so leaving this here as a comment ... yes ... strange. –  Paulster2 Aug 9 at 19:28
Try to watch it today. Tell me if you understand anything. –  MANI Aug 10 at 3:26
@MANI you have created an opinion based answer as the film is intentionally ambigous in not revealing whether he is real or not, to be true to the book. you basically need to pick your favourite answer –  Flaunting Aug 14 at 8:25
@MANI If the movie is literal, Simon suffers from a form of Monothematic delusion known as Subjective Doubles; a schizophrenic condition where the subject believes that there is one or more doppelgangers of himself, carrying out its own independent life. Him seeing a doppelganger of the security guard at the hospital is another Monothematic delusional state (there are several sub-categories of this affliction) where the subject perceives familiar things as being duplicated. –  b1nary.atr0phy Oct 1 at 16:21
@MANI ...but since we're seeing the events through the eyes of Simon, we have no way of knowing what's real. James could be a real person, whom Simon simply believes looks identical due to his delusional state. Or James could just be a schizophrenic illusion along with many of the events that take place. But maybe the whole film is metaphorical, and isn't intended to be taken literally. It's up to each viewer to decide for themselves. –  b1nary.atr0phy Oct 1 at 16:42

4 Answers 4

up vote 1 down vote accepted

The Wiki page seems to have quite a bit of detail on this Wikipedia page and as it is based on the novella The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky and adapted by Richard Ayoade there is a good chance that just like Submarine (2010) it may be a little "out there". There is also an interview he did on the Guardian website that might shed a little light on his ideas.

Richard makes a point that Simon’s concerns over his doppelgänger do not seem to concern others and that is an unusual that they are not bothered. The comedy is that his concern is of no bother to anyone else. He makes a point that "Darth Vader is in all of us and I remember that every time I shower" which he makes a reference to how people feel about ghost stories and that they can either be the literal (as in there may be a vampire) or the psychological (that there could be vampire like tendencies that are within us) that can be attributed to how Simon sees the doppelgänger and is almost the thoughts and actions of what James would not feel or believe that he can do/say.

Simon: I don't know how to be myself. It's like I'm permanently outside myself. Like, like you could push your hands straight through me if you wanted to. And I can see the type of man I want to be versus the type of man I actually am and I know that I'm doing it but I'm incapable of what needs to be done. I'm like Pinocchio, a wooden boy. Not a real boy. And it kills me.

Putting it simply, the movie is shot through the mind of Simon. He sees James as the man he wants to be as he does and says things that he wishes he could. James only exists in his mind, where we see two people in the movie is where his condition shows through.

Simon: I'll just have a...Coke and a bagel.
Waitress: We're out of bagels.
Simon: oh. Right, then, um... Right. Then i'll just...
Waitress: Come on.
Simon: right, sorry, i just... I'll just... I can just have The coke then, i guess.
Waitress: A coke. And you?
James: A coffee.
Waitress: A coffee.
James: and scrambled eggs.
Waitress: we don't serve breakfast in the evening.
James: Why not?
Waitress: Because it Says so on the menu.
James: Well, do you still Have eggs here?
Waitress: yeah.
James: And do you have a frying pan?
Waitress: yeah.
James: Then do me a favor and make me some scrambled eggs.

After this exchange Simon then explains his reaction to the way James spoke to the Waitress and James responds:

Simon: no, it's just... I don't know, i would Have never done that.
James: You don't like eggs?
Simon: no, i mean, i just... Don't think i would feel comfortable Talking to someone like that.
James: She's a waitress. She's here to serve us. If you don't tell her what you Actually want, how can she do her job?
Simon: No, i can see that... She can Be a little short sometimes, And i do think being forthright Certainly has its place. And i'm not, like, criticizing Your behavior or anything.

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You should include pertinent excerpts from these sources, as well as the links. This makes it so we have the data here in case the source you are quoting goes away or the link becomes broke. –  Paulster2 Aug 12 at 15:18
@Paulster2 I have extended my answer and given a brief outline of the interview and included a relevant quote –  Chann3rz Aug 12 at 17:49
@Channerz - I said "Simple English". Your answer is way more confusing to me. And your answer is not actually the answer to my question. –  MANI Aug 13 at 3:49
Thanks for extending the answer.... –  MANI Aug 15 at 5:16

James does not really exist. As someone mentioned in the comments, this movie is very much a "Fight Club"-type movie, where the main character develops a split personality. If you notice, in the beginning of the movie he sort of slowly comes unglued through interaction with people, including the nursing home where someone says something about him not being right in the head or something. One clear indication is the names of the characters and their symbolism; Simon James and James Simon. Each name is a complete reverse, much like their personalities. Simon James is somewhat meek and unassuming, whereas James Simon is very outward and confident. It's the whole Yin-Yang thing with the characters.

As for explaining the movie or the plot, I'm not sure I can do that. I'd have to watch it again to figure that part out, I was just trying to figure out the characters when I watched it.

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This answer has cleared some confusion about the plot. Try to elaborate the answer after watching the film again (if possible). I'll mark the best answer in a day or two because I'm expecting a few more answers. –  MANI Aug 13 at 3:58

The film is clearly ambiguous never really giving you a complete answer to the question is James real. It seems heavily sided that he isn't real but with no conclusive evidence, here is what i found to try and make the plot and the final situation a little bit simpler to understand.


Eisenberg plays Simon, a timid, isolated man who's overlooked at work, scorned by his mother, and ignored by the woman of his dreams (Wasikowska). The arrival of a new co-worker, James (also played by Eisenberg), serves to upset the balance. James is both Simon's exact physical double and his opposite - confident, charismatic and good with women. To Simon's horror, James slowly starts taking over his life.

Seeing as how the film is based on the book by Dostoyevsky i think the best reference point is to start with analysising how that book was interpreted.

The Major trend in scholarship is that many have said that Golyadkin(Simon) simply goes insane, probably with schizophrenia. This view is supported by much of the text, particularly Golyadkin's innumerable hallucinations.

It is although never confirmed in the book but Richard Ayoade could have turned this. Unlike Fight Club bost formats do not give a major hint to this, so there is no simple way to decide, both sources have given the viewer/reader their own opinion and let them make the decision, although the general consenses is that the main character goes mad and he has both personalities, i think the fact in the film the character is called "Simon James" backs this opinion up.

At the end of the novel the main character actually ends up going to a mental asylum which also strongly leads to the belief that James is not real and just a figment of Simon's imagination.


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Clearly ambiguous? Perhaps obviously ambiguous. But surely ambiguity is unclear if anything. Seriously though, I don't think trying to compare it directly to the novel is fair. The film is a "black comedy", while the novel isn't. The entire film could be metaphorical, while the entire novel could be literal. Meaning they could be conveying completely different messages. –  b1nary.atr0phy Oct 1 at 16:51

I just finished watching it. From what I gathered, it was about depression. The world he was in was very bleak, and he was constantly stomped on and such. Many things were exagerrated and made much darker than need be. For instance, his job was in a very dark environment figuratively along with his relationship with his mother and even the scene depicting him walking to his apartment. Everything was foreign.

So, James was actually a figment of his imagination. The same that you imagine yourself in a situation doing something different is what he was seeing. None of what James did ever actually happened, it was him imagining what his reaction in a different persona would be. Then he realizes he's not himself and sees how him striving to be this alter-ego and applying everywhere and his inability to become that alter-ego drives him insane. That leads to him finally flipping out and cutting himself (the later portion of the movie shows him losing grip on reality and what is/isn't real between him and his imaginary self) which leads to him jumping and using the net as a call for help (for his depression, and to seek help).

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