The Double and the Death of Robin Williams

Posted: September 11, 2014 by Blaine Grimes in Uncategorized
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I am quite the fan of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s fiction, and was excited when I heard that his novella The Double was being adapted for the big screen. A few days ago, I was finally able to find the  time to rent and watch it. I was neither prepared nor ready for what I was about to see.MV5BMTExMzY5MjAwODZeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDg0NTcxNDAx._V1__SX1394_SY638_

The Double is the story of Simon (Jesse Eisenberg), a man who is ignored by and alienated from those around him. Simon is a lonely man: he is an embarrassment to his family; he has no friends; his coworkers don’t even know who he is. However, everything changes for Simon when he meets his doppelgänger, James (also played by Jesse Eisenberg), who is the embodiment of everything Simon wishes he could be. Simon is introverted and timid, whereas James is a gregarious charmer. When Simon’s look-alike is accepted and praised by virtually everyone, it proves to be too much. Haunted by his ever-increasing loneliness, Simon contemplates suicide. “I can see the type of man I want to be versus the type of man I actually am and I know that I’m doing it but I’m incapable of doing what needs to be done. I’m like Pinocchio, a wooden boy. Not a real boy. And it kills me,” he says. You see, the truly frightening thing about Simon’s words—and The Double as a whole— is that they are not merely an unpleasant fiction—a bit of melancholia for morose minds. There are, I fear, many Simons in the world.

With the tragic death of Robin Williams, the issue of suicide has once again been brought to the forefront of our minds. And while The Double is a much-needed reminder to love the “stranger” in our midst, Robin Williams points us to the reality that it is not just the outcast and marginalized who are in need of help. All are affected: the poor and the wealthy, the famous and the unknown, the loved and the despised. Suicide is a spiritual sickness; it calls for a spiritual cure.

“It’s a disease! We need to medicate it,” society says. So we do what is right in our own eyes. We create new drugs, invent new twelve-step programs, study more Freud, and tell ourselves we’re good. We convince ourselves that we were meant to have our best life now, and we’re all the more miserable for it. “If only I had friends,” says one. “If only I had a spouse,” cries another. Others lie to themselves and say that money and possessions will keep them from suicide. At the root of every suicide lies some unfulfilled want.

Reader, I have seen what the world has to offer and can tell you that it is not enough. I offer you Christ. Are you lonely? He is a friend of sinners, loyal and true. Are you poor? He became poor for sinners, setting aside the glories of Heaven for a dark and dingy cave. Have you suffered? Are you an outcast? Look to the cross of Christ. There the God-Man suffered on behalf of sinful men and women. He absorbed the wrath and curse of the Father for the sins of His people. If you would but turn to Him, there is no more wrath left for you. Hear Him now: He does not say, “come to me, and I will make all of your problems disappear,” but “come to me, and I will give you rest.”

Yes, believer and unbeliever alike may struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide. But only the believer knows who he is, or—more accurately—whose he is. Turn, then, from your sins. The so-called something you are missing isn’t fame, love, friends, or fortune; it is Christ. Augustine said it well: “our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”

As for me, I thought I was going to sit down, watch The Double, and analyze the cinematography, directing, and screenwriting. But I couldn’t. All I could do was grieve for Simon and all of the real-life people he represents. This experience stands in my mind as an example of how art reflects life; and the reflection is that of a sinful and broken world. You see, the media was right about Robin Williams. He did have a disease; his heart was “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” He—like so many others who have felt the pull of suicide—was in need of the new heart that only Christ can give.

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