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Categories: Features

Most people know Richard Ayoade best as Moss from The IT Crowd. Whilst that is a great role brilliantly performed, his films actually manifest an even greater potential.

As a (relatively) new British talent, he has become a renowned director in his own right. Having started out on The Mighty Boosh and Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Richard Ayoade’s directorial debut Submarine was released in 2010. Inspired by directors from all over the world, such as French art cinema director Louis Malle, Ayoade used his encyclopedic, and slightly scary, knowledge of film to produce a wonderful coming-of-age story.

Based on the novel of the same name by Joe Dunthorne, it tells the story of 15-year-old Oliver (Craig Roberts), who on the one hand is worried about his parents’ marriage, and on the other hand is infatuated with his classmate Jordana (Yasmin Paige) and the pains of being a teenager.

It is a classic tale of growing up and the problems that go along with it.

Oliver is a clever and resourceful boy, who thinks he is in charge of his parents’ relationship, as well as his own troubles with his girlfriend.

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Ayoade manages to turn Swansea into a quirky world inhabited with adorable characters. They grow on the viewer right away, as they are introduced by the narrator. Oliver is faced with some difficult challenges, but unlike the typical sex-obsessed teen comedy, Submarine captures the moment when adolescence makes you face the tribulations that come with becoming an adult in an authentic way.

Paired with the soundtrack featuring songs by the Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner, the films setting and characters make for an endearing debut, for which Ayoade was nominated for a BAFTA for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer at the 65th British Academy Film Awards.

His second feature is also based on a novel, and was released this year. A novella by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Double tells the story of Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg), a timid man who works unnoticed in a big, dark factory in an undefined time and place.

He does not have much of a life; besides working long hours at his miserable desk, he visits his rude mother. The rest of his time is spent watching his co-worker and neighbour Hannah (Mia Wasikowska) with his telescope. He is too shy to really talk to her and he is so unassuming that nobody ever remembers him. Until his doppelgänger starts working at the same factory.

the double

Much darker than Submarine, The Double exposes human fear and despair in a Kafkaesque way. The music inspires unease in the viewer; an unease that is brilliantly explored by Jesse Eisenberg’s double performance. The fact that the film is set in an anonymous world makes you think that your own life could be as hopeless as Simon’s.

One really cannot compare Submarine and The Double, a fact which makes Richard Ayoade’s work all the more interesting. With two such different works, one can only guess what he will do next. He should definitely not be ignored, and I for one am looking forward to his future projects.

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