Richard Ayoade’s The Double is infuriating. It’s just torture. Based on Dostoevsky’s novella of the same name, it tells the story of Simon James, a sweet but essentially helpless doormat. Failing to take initiative in any area of his life, Simon watches as his doppelganger, James Simon, pushes him out of his existence, getting his girl, taking credit for his work and just being an all-round jerk.
Ayoade has teamed up with composer Andrew Hewitt once more following their work on Ayoade’s feature film, Submarine. Featuring traditional orchestral sounds with an experimental edge in Submarine, Hewitt returns to the same ground for his second collaboration with the British director. Reinterpreting musical techniques from compositional masters, Hewitt adjusts the traditional film score, at once referencing classical sounds whilst pushing into pastures new. In the piano chords can be heard Schubert, in the violins, Vivaldi. Many things about Hewitt’s creation scream traditional composition and yet, there is something very off-beat within the music.
‘The Double Theme’ is particularly dark and, like its name would suggest, pervades the majority of the narrative. The sound is all about dark piano chords and spiky strings. Whilst the final result may sound a little melodramatic, it is perfectly in keeping with the ridiculousness of Ayoade’s film world. ‘The Double Theme’ is manipulated throughout much of the soundtrack, undercutting the majority of the sound just as James intercepts Simon’s attempts of escape.
Romaniticism can be found in a number of the character tracks, no more so than in the particularly lovely ‘Watching Hannah’. Balancing as many quiet moments as it does melodic, the track takes a well-earned break from the strangeness of the rest of the score, reflecting Simon’s vulnerability and reminding us that he too is a human.
Office music becomes rhythmically and instrumentally experimental in Hewitt’s score. ‘Mr Papadopolous’, for example, contains no instrumental sound. Instead, Hewitt manipulates machinery to produce an increasingly irregular and angular sound, reflecting at once the mayhem of Simon’s world and the rigid regularity of the office environment.
The synced music in the soundtrack also fares similarly well. Although it is never dated, the film world is coloured by a peculiar ‘kitschness’, categorical of the 1960s. Choosing music from the same era, Ayoade plays up the strangeness of this time in history. Teamed with the dark, slimy interiors and slick night sky, the music sounds as if it is a pastiche of an ideal world, played in order to highlight the sinister heart of the film narrative.
Hewitt’s score is triumphant ; taking influence from traditional instrumentation and distorting them into a barely recognisable version of themselves, he mirrors the effects of the doppelganger narrative. And, much like its on-screen counterparts, the music never really lets you go, clinging to your ears and playing and playing until you too admit defeat.