A few years ago, the young American filmmaker Riley Stearns presented himself with “The Art of Self-Defense”, an unusual dark humor thriller, and his next film is even more unusual, bizarre. I have the impression that he was influenced by authors like the Finn Aki Kaurismäki, even more by the Greek Jorgos Lanthimos, so “Dual” exudes bizarre, deadpan black humor, that is, the characters behave extremely normally and naturally while talking and doing something completely abnormal and unnatural. Thematically, “Dual”, at least initially, reminded me of another recent film, the sf drama “Swan Song” by Benjamin Cleary with Mahershal Ali, who decided to clone himself when he realized he was terminally ill.
The main heroine of this film, red-haired weirdo Sarah (Karen Gillan), a depressed alcoholic who is in a rather unpromising relationship with a guy who is constantly absent, will decide on the same option. The plot is set in the near future, when cloning has become the most normal thing, and this thirty-year-old woman will experience a complete shock when the doctor tells her that she is terminally ill. She is suffering from some mysterious disease and the doctor gives her only a two percent chance of survival and offers her a cloning procedure and her clone will soon take her place. And Sarah will agree to that option, soon her clone will appear, which will be called Sarah’s double, and initially the two will live together so that the clone gets to know the life and habits of its original.
But the first problems for Sarah will arise when her doppelgänger begins to completely push her out of her life while she is still alive. She will take over her boyfriend, she will get closer to her mother, with whom Sarah has a bad relationship, and the situation will become completely complicated when the doctor tells Sarah that there was a mistake and that she is healthy. Now there are two Saras and neither one wants to retreat, but luckily there is a solution for such situations – a duel to the death between the original and the clone that will decide who will continue with life. From start to finish, this bizarre black humor SF satire seems completely absurdist, bizarre. Sarah is an incredibly strange person, and even before the diagnosis, she behaves somehow cold, distant, completely disinterested, and the situation will only get worse.
This world of the near future seems completely dehumanized, sick, inhuman, and as we have already said, although the idea of cloning itself is not overly original, the story is interesting and intriguing, even though it seems to fall a bit towards the end. This film stands out for the fact that it mostly seems completely inhuman, emotionless, cold, distant, even quite creepy, as is the very thought that somewhere in the world there could be a doppelgänger, a doppelgänger who may be physically identical to you, but characterful and not. Because while Sarah is obviously one of those people who are not very gifted with social skills, her doppelgänger is much better at it, so maybe that’s why it’s not surprising that she will take over her life so easily and quickly. Although the idea of doppelgängers is not that new (just think of Dostoyevsky and his Double), the knowledge that something like cloning is possible today makes “Dual” even more creepy and thought-provoking.