The Double Gets a Double: Dostoevsky Student Rotten Tomato Reviews

Students in Greta Matzner-Gore’s course Literature and Philosophy: Dostoevsky at the University of Southern California reviewed Richard Ayoade’s 2013 adaptation of The Double. Here are some excerpts of their work.

double_fake_tomatometer

——————–Movie Info——————–

Double_poster

“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” (https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_double_2013).

 

——–Critic Reviews for The Double———

1.5/5 stars 

This Movie Makes Me Feel Like Golyadkin

By Leo Houts

The Double by Dostoyevsky is funny, self-aware, and centered around Golyadkin, an idiosyncratic civil servant who is gradually driven insane by issues both in his psyche and his environment. It is called The Double because Golyadkin meets a person with the same facial features, name, and even clothes as himself. This double (Golyadkin Jr.) begins working at the same place Golyadkin does, and is more successful both socially and in work.

The Double by Richard Ayoade, on the other hand, is neither funny nor self-aware. It sacrifices the humor of Golyadkin’s pathetic character for an awkward antihero with a love interest (Simon) played by Jesse Eisenberg. Eisenberg plays Simon with the same confidence that Golyadkin Jr. has, maybe because like Golyadkin Jr., Eisenberg’s character is the exact double of a pre-existing person, in this case every past role Eisenberg has ever had. […]

If you are the kind of person who enjoys indie films about shy antiheroes, maybe you will like this film. If you are the kind of person who likes good writing and acting, you probably will not. If you are a fan of the original work by Dostoyevsky, I am sorry.”

 

3/5 Stars

“Richard Ayoade’s The Double is Great But It’s Not the Book, Literally”

By Lauren Foley

“The uncanny riddles Richard Ayoade’s film adaptation of ​The Double,​ transforming the classic Fyodor Dostoevsky novel into an otherworldly mix of science-fiction, horror, and dark comedy. Although foundationally similar, tonally, Ayoade creates a new beast from Dostoevsky’s original work, fracturing what Dostoevsky fans have come to know and love from the original work. With new character names, settings, and plot points (amongst other changes), ​The Double​ has been through quite a transformation on its way to the screen. […]

Ultimately, if you are a fan of the novella you might be able to gain something from the film– you just might not like it all that much. But, on its own, it’s worth a watch for its impeccable set design, world building, plotting, and performance by Jesse Eisenberg. You might just not be as fond of the editing, and Mia Wasikowska’s performance. Nonetheless, I recommend you give it a try– at least just to have some fun.”

The Double’s Double

By Connor Valore-Kemmerer

“They say if your doppelganger ever appears that you’re doomed to die; Dostoevsky’s novella The Double finds itself in this situation with the release of a film called The Double, directed by Richard Ayoade. You might say a book can’t die, though try googling “The Double” and look at the results—I’ll bet most of them are related to Ayoade’s adaption, not the novella. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so long as either the movie captures the themes and ideas of the novella, or you don’t value what the novella has to offer. Given that we’re fans of Dostoevsky, however, we’ll assume the ideas of the novella are worth passing down, meaning it can only be replaced if those ideas are preserved. Does Ayoade’s adaption do this? The short answer is yes and no. […]

If it was only inspired by Dostoevsky’s The Double, I would praise it for inspiring viewers to seek out the original ideas that motivated its creation. Like in the novella, however, Dostoevsky’s The Double finds itself being replaced by Ayoade’s The Double, and while this would be fine if the cores were the same, the similarities are mostly skin deep. The “personality” of the film is preferred by society over the “personality” of the novella, which is at risk of being discarded. As someone who values this original “personality,” I have to give Ayoade’s The Double a rating of 3 stars, not because it fails as a film, but because it fails as a proper adaption. An excerpt of a poem by Marie Laurencin feels appropriate: More than exiled, dead; more than dead, forgotten.”

 

3.5/5 Stars

The Double”: An Adaptation Lost in Translation?

By Ashwin Bhumbla

“Fans of the original will be delighted by the sense of place Ayoade gives to the film, an effort that lives up to the gloriously laid out setting of the novella. The sickly greens and dull yellows of the office building, the dim, grey apartments, the unrelenting darkness of the movie’s unnamed city are all definitely not St. Petersburg, but the similarities are there. We see the “messy green walls of [Golyadkin’s] little room” reflected in the hallways of the data company. The “murky, grey autumnal day” of the novella’s beginning is instead replaced by near constant darkness. While the minimalist design almost certainly is owed in part to budget constraints, it proves to be the appropriate artistic choice. A standout scene of the film is when we see Simon’s room for the first time. As he walks in we hear the door creak. We can hear and feel the constant shaking of the walls of his cramped, under-furnished apartment. The faucet shudders and moans as he pours out water into a dusty glass and that cup is the only thing we see him partake in as he watches a television show on the tiniest TV screen known to man, perhaps a modern replacement for Golyadkin’s own “small round mirror” […] The ending, like that of the original, will leave viewers scratching heads and discussing for some time. Ayoade is to be commended, taking a story one might think is unadaptable and not just adapting the plot, but adapting the feel and presence of the novella into an entirely different medium and work of art all his own.”

#NotMyGolyadkin: A Review of The Double (2013)

By Maria Camasmie

“A fan of the novella would notice quite quickly, from the first scene even, that Simon James is by no means comparable to our beloved Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin. As a fan myself, I was most delighted by The Double’s profoundly perplexing main character, Mr. Golyadkin—his paranoia, his delusions of grandeur, his obsession with status, and of course, his bizarre propensity to hide in corners. Simon James is an ordinary man in a bizarre world, while Golyadkin is a bizarre man in an ordinary world. […]

[T]he fundamental difference between the two protagonists generates a fundamental difference between the works themselves—where the original novella navigates a man’s complex and often irrational relationship with his own personality and the world around him, the film adaptation explores the reactions of a helpless, ordinary man to inexplicable events brought onto him by the outside world. Though the storylines are similar, the experience of the original novella is much more internal, while the film adaptation only scratches the surface.”

5/5 stars

How Ayoade Put Dostoevsky’s Classic in a Time Machine

By Blake Amann

“Ayoade’s adaption of Dostoevsky’s novella The Double is an extremely innovative way of translating Dostoevsky’s environment from the page to the screen and modernizing the central philosophical question of struggling with one’s identity. Ayoade’s picture, also called The Double, brilliantly employs a very dystopian-like setting in order to match the rigid, bureaucratic society that was present in the life of Golyadkin in St. Petersburg. The setting’s boring coloration and strict organization in the office area spotlights the ideal of fitting in and matching societal expectations that is key to social success in 19th century St. Petersburg. Additionally, Ayoade’s film takes place in a city that has no daylight, drawing even more parallel to the dark mood of St. Petersburg, which Dostoevsky describes in his novella as ‘pregnant with colds, agues, quinsies, gumboils, and fevers of every conceivable shape and size.’”

 

A Mad, Mad World

By Skyler Melnick

“Am I asleep? Am I dreaming?” Dostoevsky’s protagonist asks himself upon peering at his double (49). Throughout the manic stream of the novella, Golyadkin wavers, doubts, suffers, and fantasizes, feeling as though he is “neither dead nor alive, but somewhere in between” (23). In a similar fashion, Richard Ayoade’s film adaptation, ​The Double​ (2013), cultivates an absurd, dreamlike tone of inbetweenness through the use of constant oppressive noises, disorienting lighting, deadpan dialogue, and a hurried protagonist trying to catch up with a fast-paced environment. These visual and formulaic choices generate a similar manic, dreamlike tone to that of Dostoevsky’s novella, but reverse the core thematic essence from an unraveling man to a more stable, albeit troubled man in a deranged society. I give the film five twinkling stars on account of its superb sustained tone, an unusual pairing of bleakness with whimsy. It deviates from the novella in its thematic reversal, but retains the essence of madness and bleakness, resulting in a surprising, yet timeless translation: a piece of inbetweenness, a film where dream and reality, death and life, a man and his shadow are not separated, but swing back and forth like a pendulum, intertwined, leaving the viewer both shocked and empathizing.”

Rodion Raskolnikov, Your Tweet Archive is Ready

by Katherine Bowers

Two years ago, on May 1, 2016, the Twitter account @RodionTweets sent its first tweet. Since then @RodionTweets has “live-tweeted” the events of Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment, broken into 140-character-or-less snippets, from its hero Raskolnikov’s perspective. The bulk of the novel’s events take place over the course of three intense weeks in the summer, and the bulk of Rodion Raskolnikov’s tweets similarly appeared in July 2016, but the account has continued to tweet the book’s epilogues, which spread over the course of nearly two years. Finally, on April 24, 2018, Raskolnikov’s new life began and the twitter account went silent.
Rodiontweets-end-1

@RodionTweets was the brainchild of myself and Brian Armstrong, a kind of extension of our first experiment with Twitterature, @YakovGolyadkin. Both accounts were created through a process of tweet mining. For @RodionTweets we received permission from Penguin Classics to use Oliver Ready’s translation of Crime and Punishment. Then one Dostoevsky scholar mined one of the novel’s six parts and Kristina McGuirk, my wonderful RA, did a round of edits and loaded the tweets into TweetDeck, scheduling them in to tweet out according to the timeline for the novel that Brian and I had mapped.

Rodiontweets-end-2As each part of the novel was tweeted out, we reflected on our experience in creating the tweets in a series of blog posts. Sarah Hudspith mined Part 1 and reflected on the divide between public and private online and the use of hashtags as a narrative device. In her discussion of mining Part 2, Sarah Young considered the way digital approaches to the novel (tweeting, digital mapping) expand our avenues for understanding and interpretation. Kate Holland’s experience mining Part 3 led to a new perspective on the novel’s narrative structure. Brian Armstrong discussed the insight he gained into empathy in both Crime and Punishment, Part 4 and The Double through the intensely close scrutiny tweet mining requires. Jennifer Wilson’s mining of the scandal scene in Part 5 led to her reflection on social status and projection, and how pain, humiliation and suffering impact them. And my experience mining Part 6 and the epilogues led to a new realization on my part about timing in the novel. The blog post you’re reading serves as the project’s final, final note: one last reflection on what we’ve learned from @RodionTweets.

Of course, the first thing we, as literary scholars, noticed was that twitterifying Dostoevsky raised a number of questions that made us see the novel’s narration and themes in a new light. You’ll notice this from the blog post topics above. We began, however, with a basic question: how do you break a novel that’s narrated in the 3rd person down into tweets in the first person? Where does the narrator’s voice go? The switch from 3rd person narration to 1st reverses Dostoevsky’s own narrative switch from the 1st person he originally planned on to the 3rd person the novel ended up with.

Rodiontweets-end-3One of the conceits of the project is that Raskolnikov tweets as if he keeps a constant feed of everything that goes through his head. This, of course, means that the account presupposes that no one else from the novel world is reading it. For example, Raskolnikov live tweets the murder on @RodionTweets, and if Porfiry Petrovich were to read this in his Twitter feed, the novel would likely have been much, much shorter! – although this point is well taken. This style also renders @RodionTweets more like those Dostoevsky protagonists who monologue or write zapiski and less like most (active) twitter users, who may do this kind of live-tweeting some of the time, but not all of the time. Furthermore, as we mined the novel’s text for tweets, thinking critically about what would be omitted from the twitter narrative and what would be emphasized, as well as what Raskolnikov would be tweeting about, we created a feed that both captures the novel’s tone and renders the work more real-feeling, or, at least, more contemporary.

This contemporaneity was a really unexpected yet rewarding result of @RodionTweets. Beyond the experience of Raskolnikov’s tweets periodically appearing in his followers’ twitter feeds, the serendipity of their timing or placement allowed for connections to be drawn between followers’ lived experiences and Dostoevsky’s novel. Followers remarked on the eeriness of @RodionTweets juxtaposed with twitter updates about the Turkish coup attempt or the odd resonance between @RodionTweets and the mood of many in post-Brexit Britain. One of the strangest coincidences was that Raskolnikov’s monologue leading to his confession took place at the same time as Trump’s speech at the RNC in Cleveland on July 21, prompting a flood of comments from followers experiencing the two feeds – RNC live tweeters and @RodionTweets – together; here are a few examples. While unintended when we conceived the project, these juxtapositions highlight the power of Dostoevsky’s novel and speak to the relevance of his hero’s psychology for the present.

The project, though, was not all serious. Beyond the geopolitical resonances and the literary analysis, it is a project based in Twitter, a medium that’s equally political squabbling and entertaining puns, jokes, and sarcasm. The spirit of the project is one part Dostoevsky, one part Twitterature, and it also encompasses @RodionTweets’s love of strange hashtags and sublime Twitter moments such as a Dostoevsky account interacting with his creation or a Shostakovich account liking some of @RodionTweets’s tweets. Or this, my favorite follower interaction with the account, which continues to crack me up nearly two years later.

So what now? We have archived the project here: @RodionTweets, parts 1-3; @RodionTweets, parts 4-6 + epilogues. The archives are complete and tweets within them appear in chronological order (so you can read them alongside the book). They have already been used in the classroom by some. Professors assign students to read part of the novel alongside the corresponding tweets and then discuss, or to generate their own tweets from a different character’s perspective (this last idea is an assignment Kate Holland has implemented in her Dostoevsky class). If you are using the project in your class, please let me know!

Rodiontweets-end-4

At the end of my blog post about tweeting Part 6, I concluded by saying that the epilogues on Twitter would be spread across 18 months and then Raskolnikov would fade away. Now, though, I think that statement needs some revising. The spring of 2018 feels far removed in many ways from the summer of 2016. Much has happened since then. But I think the drawn-out nature of the epilogue, and Raskolnikov sporadically appearing in our feeds, has perhaps made it seem more like he is one of us – a Twitter user who is sometimes active (the conceit being he somehow manages to get online from his Siberian prison camp…), but more often not. And perhaps this silence is simply because his life is full and he hasn’t got time for social media. In this sense, although @RodionTweets has gone quiet, I hope he is not forgotten, but lingers on as part of our network, somewhere on the edge of our consciousness.


Katherine Bowers is Assistant Professor of Slavic Studies at the University of British Columbia. She is working on a book about the influence of gothic fiction on Russian realism and tweets about Russian lit and other things on @kab3d. She also edits Bloggers Karamazov and curates the North American Dostoevsky Society’s social media.

This post has been cross-posted on All the Russias, the blog of the NYU Jordan Center.

The Brothers’ Theme Songs

by Johnathon Huizar, Greta Matzner-Gore, Kelsey Steele, and Zhiqing Tan

tumblr_mxhrvmadig1sgk9e0o1_1280The personalities of the brothers Karamazov reflect their time and place (late nineteenth-century Russia), but they are also universal, at least to some degree. One can imagine meeting some like Dmitry (the passionate profligate), Ivan (the tortured intellectual), or Alyosha (the would-be saint) in the United States today. With that in mind, I asked my students to choose one of the brothers Karamazov and find a “theme song” for him, i.e. a contemporary song or piece of music that captures his personality. They posted links to their “theme songs” on our course’s discussion board, alongside short explanations of how their song captures their character’s personality. In class we put it to a vote. Here are the “theme songs” we voted best for each brother, introduced by our student winners!

DMITRY

Student: Johnathon Huizar

Theme Song: “Jesus and Jones” by Trace Adkins

Explanation: Trace Adkins’s song, titled “Jesus and Jones,” allowed fans to look into his life and see the struggle between sin and the righteous path and finding an equilibrium. I feel Dmitry struggles with this urge to spend money on drinking and women as he did with Grushenka, and much like Trace Adkins he is remorseful for it. The frantic state Dmitry is in when he is searching for 3,000 rubles shows he wants to be at peace with Katerina and that he understands this struggle between good and evil, but he cannot control it. Dmitry struggles with sin and seems to spend a large portion of the book attempting to overcome it and seek spiritual recovery.

 

IVAN

Student: Kelsey Steele

Theme Song: “You Found Me” by The Fray

Explanation: It was hard to find a song that represents Ivan accurately. I believe that “You Found Me” by The Fray is indicative of the anger, resentment, and confusion Ivan demonstrates towards God. As we see in “The Grand Inquisitor,” even if he is able to reconcile his thoughts enough to fully believe in a higher power, Ivan cannot justify worshiping a God that allows so much unnecessary suffering to go on. While I think the entire song applies to him (including his relationship with Katerina), I particularly like the chorus, because I think it perfectly captures Ivan’s internal state. As I listened to the song, I could envision Ivan shouting the words to the sky, to God.

 

ALYOSHA

Student: Zhiqing Tan

Theme Song: “Morning has Broken” by Cat Stevens

Explanation: I picked “Morning has Broken” by Cat Stevens. This song shows that God created a beautiful world where people love each other and people can get along with animals. Alyosha loves God, and he believes that because of God’s mercy, people can love each other and live in happiness and peace. When I listen to this song, I feel very warm and sweet because it brings us a positive feeling and lets us know this world is full of miracles. Even a beautiful scene or a wet garden can make us feel happy. This song is full of love which is the same as Alyosha. Alyosha always loves and helps other people and makes them happy.

 

What theme songs would you give to the Karamazovs or other Dostoevsky characters?

 

On teaching Crime and Punishment

by Robert Belknap, with introduction by Deborah A. Martinsen

Introduction

Bob Belknap was not only one of the world’s greatest Dostoevsky scholars, but also one of the world’s greatest teachers. He held that while some writers tell us what happen and some show us what happen, the Russians make us experience what happened. And that’s what Belknap did in the classroom. He did not tell us or show us what to think, he made us think by making us experience the texts he was teaching. For instance, he argued that Dostoevsky works physically upon us: when Raskolnikov is behind the pawnbroker’s door as Koch and his companion knock on it, he is holding his breath. And so are we. As Belknap points out, Dostoevsky makes us accessories after the fact: we want his axe-murderer to get away.

robertbelknap_hildehoogenboom_crop2

                               Robert L. Belknap, photo by Hilde Hoogenboom

When talking to colleagues who were teaching Crime and Punishment in Columbia’s great books course, Literature Humanities, Belknap always stressed two things: Dostoevsky was not Raskolnikov (he was more like Razumikhin) and Dostoevsky was an extraordinary literary craftsman, who studied the trade at the feet of the best yet continued to innovate. Belknap’s chapter on Dostoevsky’s omnivorous reading in The Genesis of “The Brothers Karamazov” is itself a fun read. He stresses that Dostoevsky read everything from the classics to the latest best sellers. He loved Homer, Shakespeare, Cervantes, Schiller, and Pushkin (among many, many others), avidly read Ann Radcliffe and the Gothic novelists, and introduced Edgar Allan Poe to the Russian reading public.

Belknap held that Crime and Punishment was a novel about rehearsals: Book I is a rehearsal for the murder (think of the dream of the horse) and the next five books are rehearsals for confession (make your own list!). He held that Porfiry had a theory of crime: it is a disease with two symptoms – the crime itself and the need to get caught. Raskolnikov’s behavior betrays his guilt: he revisits the scene of the crime, ostentatiously throws money around, and talks as though he were guilty.

At the XVI International Dostoevsky Symposium in Granada this year, our Russian colleagues argued about whether or not Raskolnikov truly repents by the end of the novel. Belknap had an answer: Raskolnikov’s dream in the Epilogue is a magnificent repentance. His subconscious recognizes that nihilism and Napoleonism are diseases of individualism and pride.

The following post comes from April 2010, the last year Belknap taught Crime and Punishment as part of Columbia’s Core Curriculum. For more vintage Belknap on the novel, see his posthumously published masterpiece Plots (2016).

Crime and Punishment discussion for Lit Hum staff, April 5, 2010

Dostoevsky was very much a part of European culture, wrote with immense admiration about Homer, Dante, and especially Don Quixote, learned his trade from Balzac, Dickens, Poe, and many others, and considered Les Misérables a better novel than Crime and Punishment, though he considered Razumikhin and Dunia a better pair of lovers than Cosette and Marius.

That is to say, he was a pro, and not a mysterious Asian phenomenon, or an alienated misfit. If he resembled any character in Crime and Punishment, it was Razumikhin, racy, snappy, generous, arrogant, fun. Here’s a letter he wrote to his brother at the same age:

As to translations, I’m not sure whether I’ll fuss around all summer trying to get one. We had an idiot in Petersburg, Furmann, (He’s abroad right now) and he receives 20,000 a year from translations alone! If you could get just one year provided for, you should definitely come. You’re young; you could even make a career in lit. They’re all doing that now. In ten years, you could forget about translations.

Dostoevsky was a professional journalist as well as a writer of fiction. He edited four important journals and was centrally involved in the political and ideological controversies of the 1840s, 60s, and 70s. The nihilism of Turgenev’s Bazarov (Fathers and Children) had become the central concern of the intellectual world. It was not the belief in nothing, as Bazarov had suggested, but the adherence to a fixed list of doctrines – atheism, scientism, socialism, feminism, sometimes self-interest, and a few others – over against the three official doctrines of the government – Orthodox Christianity, Official Nationalism, and the Sovereignty of the Tsar.

Raskolnikov is infected with this disease of nihilism. His conscious being is drawn to the mathematical, the calculating, the economic, the burdensome, the suicidal, the social, the scientific, the cynical, the murderous doctrines about great men that had appeared in Napoleon III’s Life of Julius Caesar. His unconscious impulses remain generous, kind, liberating, and involved with confession, resurrection, and faith.

This split between the conscious calculations and the unconscious impulses lets Raskolnikov shift, usually suddenly, between the two identities. He confesses his crime, silently, horribly, to Sonia, and then suddenly shifts to the social benefit that flows from it, saying he has only killed a vicious insect. He gives money to the Marmeladovs, to the girl wandering on the boulevard, and he regrets it for socially rational reasons in each case.

After the dream of the horse, he wakes liberated from the burden of the murderous plan, but returns to that plan because he happens to learn that it is possible. This weird reversal of intent comes not from what he learns, but from the way he learns it – by coincidence. This coincidence reaches his sense of superstition, and Dostoevsky links superstition with the scientific sense of total control that emerges at the end of the novel in the dream of the plague that makes the madmen feel supremely sane.


Robert Belknap (1929-2014) was a Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures and a former Dean of Columbia University. His work on Dostoevsky includes the books The Structure of “The Brothers Karamazov” (1989), Genesis of “The Brothers Karamazov”: The Aesthetics, Ideology, and Psychology of Making a Text (1990), and Plots (2016). 

We are grateful to Deborah Martinsen for giving us access to her notes from Professor Belknap’s discussion of teaching Crime and Punishment in 2010 as well as her introduction to this piece. Deborah Martinsen is Associate Dean of Alumni Education and Adj. Associate Professor of Russian and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. 

The photograph of Robert L. Belknap was taken at a conference held in his honor in February 2010 and appears with the kind permission of the photographer, Hilde Hoogenboom, Associate Professor of Russian at Arizona State University.

This post appears as part of the #CP150 project. For more information about the project, click here.