Johan Grimonprez’s mock docudrama is an intriguing fusion of documentary and narrative drama. It merges live action and 50s stock footage to tell the fictitious account of how Alfred Hitchcock met his double while filming The Birds, and splices adverts and old news reel footage from the era. Through this, Grimonprez successfully conveys the feel of the fifties to serve as a backdrop to this intriguing tale, but where Double Take suffers is in its thinly stretched narrative which doesn’t engross in comparison to the fascinating real life footage on display.
The story’s weakness is due to the film’s self-referential execution. By revealing the fact that actors were hired to double up as Hitchcock in scenes, and also by revealing the recording of an impersonator narrating in the guise of Hitchcock, one can’t help but feel this would have been more intriguing if the fictitious elements were left unexplained – therefore enriching the ambiguity that would have subsequently made Double Take more compelling. Although the central concept is ingenious and the archive footage on display is both educational and fascinating as a back-drop to the story, Double Take’s weakness is in its narrative, which is too thin and weighed down by the fascinating insights into the time and the world in which Hitchcock lived and worked.
Despite all its flaws, it is an innovative and fascinating film; especially for Hitchcock fans. However, one can’t help but wonder if it would have worked better either as a straight laced documentary comparing Hitchcock’s body (of work) to the cultural milieu of the time, given that Hitchcock is a self-confessed thief of ideas from tabloid newspapers it would have seemed apt and relevant to exam the comparisons. Or as a stand-alone feature film with a more developed narrative, which serves here as nothing more than a withered backbone to an otherwise educational curiosity. But maybe that would have gone against what the film was trying to achieve in the first place.