The Double, on the other hand, is not so much surreal as it is surrealist, if you can grasp the distinction. It tries a little too hard. It piles on its absurdities with a nudge and wink, as if to say, "Hey, that's weird isn't it? Kind of like something out of a dream, huh? Huh? Huh!!?" It's loosely based on the Dostoevsky story of the same name. Very very loosely. In a way, I got the sense that the film-makers believed that Dostoevsky himself was some kind of artsy surrealist and they were trying to pay homage to that fact. There's a scene where the protagonist pieces together a ripped up picture of his love interest and it ends up being a nod to Magritte's La reproduction interdite. But Dostoevsky never really went in for those kinds of artsy visuals. His stories existed not in a surrealist world, as much as in a world of feverish delirium. You read a Dostoevsky novel and you start to feel like you're coming down with something, like you've been breathing bad air. Dostoevsky wasn't about apples with doorways that opened onto the clouds; he was about cranking the heat up under his characters until they were sweating and dizzy and half out of their minds.
In that regard, Enemy is actually closer than The Double to the spirit of Dostoevsky, although neither story really bears much resemblance to the trials and tribulations of poor Mr. Goldyadkin. But Enemy built more on psychological pressures than on wonky stagecraft and the random oddities of the supposedly avant-garde. I prefer that. It had a strangeness about it, but it was a strangeness that, as I said above, I could take seriously. Rather than alienating me with deliberate weirdness, it crawled under my skin in a way that was genuinely unsettling. It wasn't "dream-like"; it was a dream.
And Dostoevsky himself had a great grasp of that real dream logic, the truly surreal, which he employed expertly when the occasion called for it. The dream where the horse gets beaten to death in Crime and Punishment is so vividly portrayed, so utterly disturbing in the behavior of its principals, so perfectly necessary in all details, and so beautifully apropos of Raskolnikov's emotional state at that point in the story, it's as though Dostoevsky had crawled behind the eyes of his character and dissected his mind. And, of course, that scene is prefaced by that wonderful passage that I try to remember when everything around me tells me that "no one cares about other people's dreams." And so I'll close this post with Dostoevsky's great rebuttal to that sentiment:
"At times monstrous images are created, but the setting and the whole picture are so truth-like and filled with details so delicate, so unexpected, but so artistically consistent, that the dreamer, were he an artist like Pushkin or Turgenev even, could never have invented them in the waking state."