Part of a series on the films of Jeremy Irons
Dead Ringers (1988) is a magnificent film, and one of my favorites. It not only has wonderful acting by the powerful Geneviève Bujold, whose is criminally underrated, but stars Jeremy Irons turning in two masterful performances, playing a set of gynaecologist twins whose relationships deteriorate when Bujold’s character becomes entwined between them.
Scholar Mark Nicholls, taking a psychoanalytic approach to the films of Jeremy Irons, notes the sublimation of the feminine within the film. The film examines how women are controlled, from Bujold’s character’s bristling feminism to the abstraction of women to organs (as seen in the title sequence).
Space in the film is defeated manipulated, as Irons’ characters are rarely seen outside rooms, and are often ensconced in womb-like spaces. This use of space also touches upon the fear of separation, one of the film’s primary themes. As twins Beverly and Elliot Mantle, their relationship is a combination of narcissism and ego, a fusion where individual identity is consumed.
In term of performance, this may be Irons’ best work. He deftly portrays two different characters with distinct and controlled body language that is a marvel to watch. Irons notes in an interview that his work in the theater (where one is expected to toggle between two or three characters in between productions or shows) enabled him to successfully meet the artist and technical challenge of playing a set of twins. The film uses a combination of split screen techniques and motion controlled camerawork to create movie magic, as they say.
After this film, Irons starred in two smaller pictures, one a historical drama, the other based on a play; both projects obviously well suited to Irons’ preferences for literary adaptations of works of higher caliber. After than his next project was Reversal of Fortune (1990), in which he finally won his oscar. As Jeremy Irons thanks David Cronenberg in his acceptance speech, he remarks that “some of you may understand why”. Why indeed.