Dig through the history of Horror and you will find, buried beneath the Vampires and the Werewolves, a more enduring monster. A monster that fits uneasily on the cinema screen because his depiction requires no make-up or special effects. A monster that looks exactly like you. A monster which, in fact, is you.
From Poe’s “William Wilson” (1838) to Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound (1820) and Dostoyevsky’s The Double (1846) through to Kurosawa’s Doppelganger (2003), it is clear that one of the greatest fears humanity has is to wind up face-to-face with itself. Terror is dealing someone who knows all of your secrets, who knows all of your bullshit, who knows what you are capable of… and who can do it too. The doppelganger is a reminder that as much as humanity fears the Other, it fears the Self just as much. Perhaps there is a reason for this. Perhaps what we hate about the Other is what we hate about ourselves. Perhaps all hatred and fear is externalised and projected self-loathing? This idea has a nicely psychoanalytical feel to it. You can imagine Uncle Sigmund whispering it in your ear as you cough up his fee and prepare for the long slouch back home. Maybe it’s not them. Maybe it’s you. How far can we take this insight into our fears and terrors?
Johan Grimonprez’s documentary essay Double Take attempts to answer this question by using the doppelganger as a device for examining not only the politics of the Cold War but also the relationship between television and cinema.