‘Cam’ and 5 Other Great Female Doppelgänger Movies

Possession (1981)

“I can’t exist by myself because I’m afraid of myself, because I’m the maker of my own evil.”

Jealousy and rage unleash a phantasmagorical fury between a married couple struggling to navigate their relationship after the wife has an affair. Toxic masculinity and the need for control over one’s partner are the true culprits of the descent into each characters’ madness and savagery. Crippled by jealousy, Mark (Sam Neill) becomes increasingly violent and possessive over his wife, Anna, (Isabelle Adjani) while forcing her to stay with him. His proprietary nature is exuded through domestic abuse, whereas Anna longs to possess a sense of freedom. Mark’s total need for dominance is exhibited throughout the film while Anna desperately tries to escape his grasp and the hired men that follow her. Anna also struggles to work through the trauma of having a gruesome miscarriage in a famous subway scene in which Adjani gives a ferocious performance of the complete collapse of the feminine psyche and symbolic opposition to motherhood. Her traumatic oppression and anger is manifested as a monster, while she repeatedly kills off the men who try to invade her life. The use of a double is executed with their son’s teacher, Helen (also played by Adjani).

Donning green eyes instead of blue and a lighter shade of hair, Helen personifies the saintly and submissive traits that Mark wishes to bestow upon his wife. She is nurturing and congenial, while Anna is free-willed and hysterical. Similarly, Anna has sex with the monster in order to create her own double, a replica of Mark who is docile despite being bred out of pain. There’s a sense of sacrifice that Anna faces as a woman mostly in her need for self-preservation and independence that is rarely challenged against the societal pressures of staying to make a broken marriage work for the child’s sake or domesticity in general. Bloody, sexual violence and explosions of manic breakdowns chronicle the psychological complexity of noxious relationships that ultimately conceptualize toxic masculinity and the patriarchy as the true monsters.

Black Swan (2010)

“I just want to be perfect.”

Nina (Natalie Portman) is a professional in every sense of the word. As a ballerina, she foregoes delicious indulgences, promptly shows up to class, and lives at home with her overbearing mother who still treats her like a young girl. Acclimated to a life of strict rules and oppression, she embraces the darker side of herself through her lead role in “Swan Lake”. Her obsessive need for perfection, both physically and within her craft, begins to consume her and stalk her every move. Upon meeting a mysterious and sexually open-minded newcomer to the company, Nina grows envious after her instructor points out that Lily (Mila Kunis) possesses the qualities she herself lacks. As her confidence fades and her concern of relevancy enhances, her distress towards inadequacy is personified in the form of a doppelgänger that closely watches her in the mirror and picks strange feathers that begin protruding out of her skin. Fantasies of a romantic encounter with Lily coupled with her increasing jealousy cause the doppelgängers to fluctuate back and forth between the two dancers. The fight with her doppelgänger is ultimately a struggle within herself and the constant need for perfection.

Her internal battle ultimately leads to her demise but leaves the audience wondering if self-sacrifice is truly a cost worth justifying the ultimate performance and apex of perfection, after all. The backstage brutality of dance juxtaposes the pristine image that ballerinas project on stage with their flawless make-up and elaborate costumes. That in itself holds a dual nature; yet as a woman, Nina also balances the polarity of the virgin and whore structure. Her dance teacher encourages her to let herself go by touching herself and experimenting outside of her strict regimented lifestyle, although she is chastised by other women as many assume she acquired her role by sleeping with her instructor. She is also mocked after disclosing a sexual fantasy to Lily despite her otherwise liberal perspective on sensuality and pleasure. Nina has to balance her sanity, blooming sexuality, ambition, and subsequent sacrifices in order to perform not only to fulfill her own standards but society’s as well.

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