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. Commented Aug 9, 2014 at 19:28
  • Try to watch it today. Tell me if you understand anything. Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 3:26
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    @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
    Commented Aug 14, 2014 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.
    – arkon
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 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.
    – arkon
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 16:42

18 Answers 18


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. Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 15:18
  • @Paulster2 I have extended my answer and given a brief outline of the interview and included a relevant quote
    – Chann3rz
    Commented Aug 12, 2014 at 17:49
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    @Channerz - I said "Simple English". Your answer is way more confusing to me. And your answer is not actually the answer to my question. Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 3:49

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.

That answers the basics of your question, but I ended up writing a whole lot more detail about your question and the movie in an article. Great question. It was the inspiration for me to think about and write about the movie in more detail, and it was fun to write this.

The Double Movie Explained: What Was It About?

  • What Do I Think?
  • What Do I Know For Sure?
  • Is James Real?
  • Are The Scenes 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?

Simon and James are two sides to Simon's personality. Simon cares too much about how people will perceive him and also about their feelings, so he is a very submissive personality and lets people walk all over him. This starts to take its toll until he reaches a point where he feels like he is fed up of being trampled on.

so he starts to change his approach to life and others by being more confident and forthright (james) these are two sides to his personality. The new Simon (james) starts to take over to the point where the old Simon is becoming a distant memory (he's forgetting who he is), but as he does simon realises that the new side of him is actually very arrogant and also too dismissive of other peoples feelings he's gone so far that he can't remember who he was. He hates the new Simon and realises that he has gone too far and needs to find a happy medium where he still cares about others feelings but doesn't let them walk all over him. This is where he starts to fight back. When the film ends you see he has found his humility again but he has taken control of his life. So my answer is that there are not two people and he is not insane, its just the internal struggle that we all go through as we try to be assertive in life but not to the point where we are an arsehole. We want to be assertive and compassionate. In control of our own destiny.

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    I'm very tired while writing this so it may not be my best explanation but i will re-read it tomorrow and try to explain it better.
    – Martin
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 2:42

I believe that James is not real. But yet I don't understand how it is that the other people saw a person that was James. It was at the end that I was convinced that James was made up by Simons imagination. When he killed himself James died as well. They were one in two separate bodies. But this all gets very confusing because there had to be a physical James, since he did have a lot of interactions with the people in Simons life. This movie has me completely perplexed in a weird good way, it explains how many of us often feel at some point in our lives.


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).


I think it's left open to interpretation. There are massive problems with either theory (of James existing or not). If he does exist, then it becomes a movie with a supernatural element, since when one gets hurt it replicates in the other (and somehow the Colonel is in the ambulance, which is pretty odd). If James doesn't exist, however, the problem becomes that like 70% of the movie is a complete hallucination, since Simon is interacting with other characters who would not be able to see James (who wouldn't exist), yet are constantly acknowledging him as a different entity than Simon (eg - his boss who keeps comparing them, the guard who doesn't let Simon through then does after James says 'he's with me,' the waitress who takes both of their food orders, the guy at the funeral who chases him with a shovel, and even Hannah, who asks Simon for the key so she can see what James is doing.

Frankly, though I liked the movie, neither explanation makes much sense. I'd be of a different mind if there was at least some indication that he was possibly hallucinating everything, but if there was, I missed it.


Has anyone considered that the whole movie takes place after he died, since he clearly saw himself jumping at the beginning. So since he commited suicide he ended up in purgatory where his good half had to over come his bad half to see if he should of ended up in heaven, which is where the ambulance could of been going.

There are several religious references and it would explain a lot of plot twists where he was being judged for his actions and relived the events leading upto his jump. If he didn't survive the fall, then he was meant to relive the events over and over until he did it right.

I know this is a rough theory, but I think there is some truth hidden in it.


I would first like to reply to a few people indirectly. I noticed one person make a comment about Simon being schizophrenic, which I agree with. But why did you make the comment saying "he's not crazy"? I'm pretty sure no one called him crazy. Also another person said they think he has a split personality. Like I said before I believe he's more schizophrenic due to the looking up the symptoms [source: mayoclinic.org]. DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder), also commonly known as multiple personality disorder or split personality, which he does show some symptoms of, but more so schizophrenia which is a split mind. Lastly I also agree that James is not real, that has been a consistent idea throughout this. But no one has really answered the question why no one sees it as a big deal, and who is James really? Well here's my theory, obviously in this theory Simon is schizophrenic. Simon basically sees whatever his mind wants him to see. I think maybe Simon isn't Simon at all (noticed someone commented saying that someone referred to "Simon" as Stanley). I think that occasionally Simon sees or hears a glimpse of reality but it doesn't register with him. A schizophrenia symptom: Verbal and/or visual hallucinations. So most things he sees and hears are mostly a distortion of his reality. Maybe James is just some random person that Simon works with. Plus he only talked to one co-worker about the new person (James) and was nonchalant about it and was pretty much like "yeah I guess he kind of looks like you". Like I said before most of what Simon heard and saw probably wasn't even happening over half the time, therefor even may have even had a conflicting view of his actual self. Almost like an identity crisis. Long story short my conclusion is that through the midst of all this it was both literal in a psychological sense and metaphorical realistic sense, which is why so many people found Simon relatable. Because we're all trying to find a balance within ourselves trying to figure out who we are, feeling lost, invisible, and rejected. Then most importantly in this movie feeling conflicted "should I be the ass hole that gets bitches and steps on people to get ahead? Or the nice guy that gets walked on all over?" Simon in the end drove himself to insanity, becoming paranoid and defensive, as his hallucinations progressed, all the while trying to find that balance within his mind of who he actually is. He then can no longer take it. Killing both Simon and James (the metaphoric and hallucinogenic version of himself, who might've not even really been there most of the time in reality). So in a sense I don't really think Simon was ever real either, it was him believing that he was somehow an alternate version of this James fellow who was actually just some random new worker. But in his mind hallucinated James looking like himself, which in this case Simon is actually Stanley.

But then again maybe I'm just over thinking it. c: I just wanted to fill as many plot holes as I could. If I didn't add the word plot in that last sentence, it would've sounded dirty. :I And I honestly don't even know if the majority of what I said will even make sense to anyone.

  • I like the way you described it. So a +1 for you... Commented Mar 1, 2015 at 12:17

in my opinion James is real because:

1) There's feedback from everyone else in the movie towards him, the entrance guy would let Simon in after James without James filling in the ticket which can't be done without the presence of James.

2) James is blackmailed with both Melanie and Hannah can't be done with Simon himself.

3) The room key swap thing also can't be done with Simon himself.

and although i'm not so sure, i think the ending is making sense; Simon locked James in his bed, he jumped, both get the injuries but meanwhile Simon's taken care by the medics, James are left slowly to dead. So i guess Simon wins.


What if, theoretically, Simon only experiences one hallucination? A hallucination of himself watching an unknown man jump from a building.

This hallucination of a suicide is created and based on Simon's own depression which stems from the inability to be noticed, both in the workplace as well as by the girl he wants to talk to.

He recreates, in his own mind, himself (as an unknown man) jumping off the building and being seen from the point-of-view of a bystander (who is himself). In reality it is Simon (the real Simon) jumping from the building and instead of dying, he bounces off the awning and suffers swelling within his brain.

The swelling places Simon in a coma where he dreams of a supernatural occurrence where a mysterious doppelgänger tries to take over his life and steal his away the girl of his dreams.

And so, in reality, Simon lies on a hospital bed, probably with his aged mother, dreaming of a series of events that is more than certainly unlikely. Simon might eventually wake up from the coma or, more probably, will die.



I think James was definitely Simon's alter ego. We never see a scene with James alone without Simon lurking in the background. Whereas, there are many scenes with Simon alone until James is created. Once, James enters, he is either a voice in Simon's head or a go-getter while Simon passively admires him or dreads him.

So in a way Simon is the protagonist's original self and James is the manifestation of himself after social conditioning.

The way the other's react is exaggerated or trivialized in Simon's mind. He magnifies negative reactions and doubts positive ones.

For example, girls get flirty with him when he is an assertive player and ignore him when he is a passive workhorse. The boss praises him when he delivers results. He openly criticizes him when he is an indecisive/ passive workhorse.

In reality, their reaction will be subtle, but in simon's mind, the difference is like night and day.

In the end, Simon is compelled to kill James because his acquired nature is going further and further away from his true nature. But, that would mean that Simon would become obsolete again. So, he kills James silently in a room and jumps off the building. When he survives the fall, he believes that he can impersonate James and be loved by everyone.


The answer that he is in purgatory is the best explanation. The setting, the ambience, the strange behavior, the out of body theme that reoccurs all point to this reality. Remember the detectives who interview him after reporting the jumper suicide...they say all they handle is suicides...

The guy who waves and jumps in the beginning was simon. This is the end of his physical life, notice he does the same thing, waving to James at the end of the film before he jumps.

He spends the film resolving his internal conflicts from his life...he wants to be a good guy but fails by being too obliging, and is reduced to being a miserable stalkerish loner. He manufactures a cocky winner persona with a ton of balls and social, political understanding, but finds this persona repugnant.

The plot after his real life suicide examines his regrets about not fully pursuing what he wanted, being who he wanted to be. As simon we see who he was in life, as James we see who he wished he could be like. But through the story he begins to depise James and realizes he didn't want to be him afterall, just a braver version of himself.

When he uses the handcuffs and shared injuries to "kill" James he is letting go of this struggle, and finds peace. In the ambulance he has what he wants, to be noticed by the colonel (professional respect) and the girl (human connection), but only because he has finally accepted himself, "I like to think I'm pretty unique."


I think that the whole movie is a metaphor. Simon is very unhappy with who he is. He sees the man he wants to be but that's very different than the man he is. James is the man he wants to be, Simon is the man he is. The whole movie is a constant battle within himself over the man he wants to be, and the man he is. In the end we see that whatever happens to Simon happens to James thus showing that they are the same person. Simon doesn't know who he is anymore if the the man he used to be still exists, and he doesn't like it. All the jealousy and anger over himself and the man he wants to be sets in. He sees no other choice but to get rid of the man he wants to be altogether, and the only way to do that is to get rid of both of them, so he tries to kill himself, and he doesn't die, but the man does. His last words in the movie are "I like to think I'm unique." This means he has finally come to terms with who he is and he is satisfied with it.


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.

  • 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. Commented Aug 13, 2014 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.


  • 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.
    – arkon
    Commented Oct 1, 2014 at 16:51

Film based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky the double. Similar plot but main protagonist is Golyadkin.

Many have focused on Golyadkin's search for identity. One critic wrote that The Double's main idea is that "'the human will in its search for total freedom of expression becomes a self-destructive impulse.’"[9]

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    If you're going to quote text from outside sources, please link to them.
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 1:41

yes he do exist but he suffers from A deep schizophrenic Personality Disorder Seeing Himself As him Easy as That This Suffering also exist in the real life And some Humans Have this And Remeber They Are Not Crazy Their Reality It"s just diffrent Then Yours.


@MANI The Kids Just Depressed And The Guy That Looks Just Like Him Is Everything He Wants To Be. It Drives Him Crazy, The Guy James Is Just A Workplace Psychopath That Has Found The Perfect Victim That So Happens To Look Just Like Him. But Slightly Better Looking Not To Mention The Personality. This Look Alike PSYCHOPATH Appears To Be The Good Guy While Using Other People's Accomplishments As If Their His Own.He Covers His Using Tactics By Acting On The Prays Weakness Helping Him With Social Attributes Is A Perfect Way For This Look Alike Psychopath To Get In The Kids Head And Steal His Smart Works As If They're His Own. Notice He Uses The Boy While Appearing To Be Helping Him Then When He Felt Cornered He Took Of His Mask. HE'S VIOLENT, HE'S PROMISCUOUS, AND HIGHLY MANIPULATIVE THESE ARE COMMON TRAITS OF A PSYCHOPATH. DO RESEARCH ON INTERNET FOR A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE MOVIE. AND THE PERSONALITY DISORDER JAMES HAS CALLED PSYCHOPATHY.

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