In Dead Ringers, David Cronenberg tells the chilling story of identical twin gynecologists-suave Elliot and sensitive Beverly, bipolar sides of one personality-who share the same practice, the same apartment, the same wome... more »n. When a new patient, glamorous actress Claire Niveau, challenges their eerie bond, they descend into a whirlpool of sexual confusion, drugs, and madness. Jeremy Irons' tour-de-force performance-as both twins-raises disturbing questions about the nature of personal identity.« less
"After creating the viscerally charged and bewildering Videodrome, Cronenberg took on a few projects with a bit more mainstream appeal: The Dead Zone, The Fly, and this film: Dead Ringers.
It's not just a clever title (in fact, the movie was going to be called "Twins" until one of Cronenberg's old producers, Ivan Reitman, asked if he could use the title for a movie he was working on with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito). The movie stars -- and stars again -- Jeremy Irons as twin gynecologists, Beverly and Elliot Mantle. Although they are physically identical, their personalities take divergent paths as they grow older. Elliot grows into a confident womanizer, a sponge for the spotlight. Beverly withdraws into books, confident in little else other than his research.
They have a good thing going. Elliot woos the women and whisks them off of their feet, and when he tires of them, he hands them off to his bro Bev. The ladies are, apparantly, none the wiser. None, that is, until they try the stunt on Claire Niveau. Claire is a melodramatic and needy type, who has a steady addiction to pills, but she's also a pretty popular actress -- a student of human actions -- and the difference between the two men's faces are easier to hide from her than the differences between their hearts. It doesn't help matters, of course, that Beverly falls in love with her.
Like many Cronenberg films, a wealth of subtext buoys the plot along, but in this case it's just as easy to enjoy the film even if you don't necessarily "get" it. The surface ripples show two men who struggle against the divisiveness of fear and longing, how they clutch at sanity and each other as if they were the same thing. Addictions to love, to drugs, to success, and to power send them spinning around each other in mutual orbits of decay. Each tries to save the other, but it's like bootstrapping in quicksand. Neither has the ground to stand on.
Those who look close enough will see elements of Cronenberg's typically fetishistic influences: bizarre tools, the polar strategies of lunacy vs. logic, weird biologies (Claire has a mutation that becomes a fixation for one of the brothers). There's more at stake than just school boy crushes becoming grown man crazies. There's also the unity of brotherly love, salvation in sinning, and something that Beverly creepily refers to as "inner beauty."
Most of the subtleties of the film are found in Jeremy Irons, who plays both brothers with a skill that can only be described as phenomenal. With the help of cutting edge special effects techniques (this before the days of CGI and digital enhancement), Irons' brothers are an amazingly convincing pair. His performances shatter into dizzying, multi-facted brilliance as the plot progresses, until it is sometimes hard to tell which brother is which. The stunning sureness of his approach to the two characters is, by itself, enough to make this movie worth watching and owning.
It is also recommended, of course, by Cronenberg's directorial talent for deifying degradation. His sharp-eyed lens is layered with images of blood-shot confusion and the clutter of offices and brains, but without a doubt it spells out something engaging, it pieces together the details of something altogether absorbing. Leave it up to Cronenberg (with the two-fold talent of Irons at his disposal) to mastermind a movie that gives a radiant, uplifting glory to a film that -- like almost all of Cronenberg's -- slowly spirals down the gutter of despair."
Jeremy Irons does more than just clone himself in this role!
Steven Sprague | Newport Beach, CA | 01/28/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Mantle brothers, Beverly and Elliot, are more than just identical twins. They're like two aspects of one person's internal character turned into two separate external realities. They're both brilliant gynecologists specializing in infertility problems with women and have spent their whole lives living as if they were one individual. They live in the same flat, work at the same clinic and share the same unsuspecting women until Beverly falls in love and no longer wants to share. This emotional break initiates an evaluation of the self, ultimately calling into question the very nature of the brothers symbiotic relations. Can they survive without each other? Jeremy Irons does more than just clone himself in this role, but engenders the brothers Mantle with two distinctive characterizations that are convincing and compelling. Based on an actual case."
Jeremy Irons' Best Work
Natasha Conn | Las Cruces, NM USA | 04/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Maybe it's the combined effect of having two Jeremy Irons for the price of one, but I believe -and Irons has been quoted to the same effect- that this is the finest work this fine actor has commited to the screen. Much more deserving of the oscar than his recessive Claus Von Bulow in 'Reversal of Fortune.'
The way he plays the weak twin off the stronger one, whose influence fades when a woman comes between them, is extraordinary. If you don't mind the pervasive grimness of the story in general, than do yourself a favor (God, starting to sound like that pretentious guy from the Actors Studio on Bravo), and get 'Dead Ringers.'"
Cronenberg-Irons tour de force.
R Jess | Limerick, Ireland. | 03/31/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"'Dead Ringers' may indeed be David Cronenberg's best film. Jeremy Irons performance is truly extraordinary. As for not being able to tell the difference between the two brothers, I could sense immediately which brother was which by simple body language and how each brother carried himself. Which is a testiment to the subtlties of Iron's acting, that he could make you believe he was two different people at the same time on screen. This belief was also helped by the amazing motion control camera sequences which allowed Irons to "act with himself" in the same frame. The clean perpendicular lines of the twins' appartment was especially chosen to make it easier to cut the film together.Viewers should be warned beforehand that 'Dead Ringers' is not a horror movie, it's more of a psychological character study. The twin brothers have an unusual gendered relationship. Elliot as the suave unfeeling male who's "no good with the serious ones" and Beverly, with the girl's name, as the the sensitive, caring female. Soon they come to realize that they are one physical entity, forever separated as two physical beings.In talking about the film Cronenberg has said that men have proven to be much more squeamish about this film than women as lying on the gynecological chair is an experience that many women have gone through. Yet many men have no idea what it's like. Cronenberg was fascinated by these doctors who knew more abaout their patients than their husbands did.The only drawback about this whole project is that the marvellous soundtrack is not available anywhere!"
Truly unique, disturbing, haunting and great
Lunchbox | Quebec | 10/07/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I first saw "Dead Ringers", I was about twelve years old. All I can say about that first viewing is that it really gave me shivers...years later (five days ago), I got the Criterion DVD by mail, which I ordered from Ebay. I watched it and was really disturbed. Then, I listened to the audio commentary by the director, David Cronenberg, which also directed pretty great films such as "Crash", "Naked Lunch", and "eXistenZ". The commentary itself is worth the DVD's price (even though it can be hard to find because it is out of print). It really helps understanding Cronenberg's vision of every scene, and believe me, he brings many nuances and psychological details, even though Jeremy Irons' acting is awesome and really eloquent and meaningful. The film is about two twins, Elliott and Beverly (both played by the fantastic Jeremy Irons) who are gynecologists and discover that some women suffer from mutations in their uterus. Besides their work, these two twins are pretty much the same person...at least, on the outside (they live in the same apartment, they have the same job, they even share the same women!)...on the inside, it's different, and that's what we discover when the disturbing mind of Beverly unfolds before our eyes and hearts.Cronenberg is ambitious. Like he said, most of the films that feature twins are comedies or thrillers in which one of the twins is good and fights his evil brother. He takes a very different approach and focuses on the complexes and psychological flaws that having a twin could create. Personally, if I had a twin and saw this film, it would completely change my life. This film goes deep. From the introduction where you see them when they're just young boys to the heartbreaking and disturbing ending, you see Elliott, the one that gets the honors, the one that had a lot of women in his life, the one that manipulates people, the one that is strong, briefly said. In the other hand, you've got Beverly, the drug addict, the one that gets his first real relationship, the one that somehow follows his brother, without ever being "number one". Cronenberg exploits this complex trouble and analyzes the competition that can occur between twins, the incredibly fundamental union between the two brothers. Also, Cronenberg shows us Beverly turning completely insane, and explores the very deep faces of his deranged mind. Cronenberg is a good director, saying the opposite would be a lie. This film probably isn't considered his best, but in my opinion, it is, or at least, it is equal to his best films. His directing is creepy and moody, while not very slow-paced. He really delivers a disturbing and terrifying film, with such a deep exploration of the mind. The acting is exceptional, especially from Jeremy Irons. I mean, these roles were not easy at all, and he plays two at the same time...in many scenes he has to talk to himself, and he uses completely different and appropriate facial expressions and tones for every line one of the twins says, without ever exaggerating. When I was twelve, I didn't know this actor, and I would have never been able to tell you there was only one actor playing these two. Genevieve Bujold is good, not perfect, but good enough. But Irons is really a great actor. Many sequences of this film are haunting, especially the dream sequence, which is obviously very symbolic, but also very intense. The whole scenes in which Beverly falls into insanity are handled with genius by Cronenberg and Irons. Also, the scene where Elliott dances with his girlfriend and invites his brother to dance with them. It shows how influential and "seductive" Elliott is to his twin. The music is haunting too. It is beautiful and scary and really fits with the atmosphere of the film. Overall, Cronenberg made a beautiful yet extremely disturbing study of the twins phenomenon and the psychological impact on them. Also, he put in images the idea he has about the link between them. With Irons as the twins, he made a very good film, that I would describe as touching, disturbing, haunting, beautiful, complex, deep, psychological, and finally, great.(Note: The last image of this film is the one that stunned me the most in my whole life, it really is POWERFUL!!!)"