“Double Indemnity”

I really enjoyed watching “Double Indemnity.” It captures the theme of film noir, which is darkness and shows the “bad” in people. Film noir means, “black film” and typically there is some kind of corruption, deception and crime. In this story there is definitely a lot of that happening. Mrs. Dietrichson doesn’t love her husband and wants to murder him but only after making sure he has an insurance policy. She uses her beauty and seduces Mr. Neff, since he works at an insurance agency, to get him to help her with the insurance. At first he doesn’t want to get involve, but eventually gives up. I found this kind of funny. He has just met her and is “mad about her.” He even comes up with the plan of the murder, betraying his morals (since at the beginning he opposes the idea) and even the people he works with, especially Keyes whom you could see appreciates Neff. It’s sad, but it’s a reality I guess of that time and even now, that people will go after their self-interest and don’t think about how it will affect others. I am not saying everyone is like this, but it just reinforces what film noir is all about.

One could feel the anxiety and fear that goes on in this film and even paranoia, in the process of planning the murder and after. Neff is very cautious and it’s on the constant lookout for any error. Though he doesn’t get caught, one can feel the intensity of all the events, especially after Keyes is convince it wasn’t an accident and figures out how everything happened. Neff is afraid that the truth will be revealed. He is also afraid of what might happen to Lola, Mr. Dietrichson’s daughter. He cares for her since he gets to know her well. He wants her to be happy. One could say he becomes paranoid, just by the fact that he decides to confess. After killing Mrs. Dietrichson, he could have just gone away. There wasn’t any evidence against him. He also narrates the story in a strong tone and even though he is somewhat composed, there is still a feeling that he has lost it. Overall I liked the movie, but I expected to see more elements of film noir that Schrader talks about, “in film noir, the central character is likely to be standing in the shadow” (219). Yes, there was darkness in some scenes, especially when Neff was hiding in the bushes, but I feel like it could have been more stricken. I say this thinking about “Gilda” and especially a scene in which Mr. Mundson’s profile is shown in complete darkness and covers half of the screen. That really struck me because that’s what I pictured film noir to be like. I think it has a great effect.

4 thoughts on ““Double Indemnity”

  1. It’s true that in some movies it’s more evident that characters often appear in the shadow or darkness, but I think it was present in “Double Indemnity” as well. Characters appear in the shadow every time something horrible is about to happen; for example when Mr. Neff is hiding in the backseat of the car. Another good example is the scene where Mr. Neff and Mrs. Dietrichson shoot each other. The whole scene is in a completely dark room, you vividly see only Mrs. Dietrichson’s ring gleaming.

  2. Shadow is important in Double Indemnity. Just about every scene has some sort of striking shadow cast on the characters. Hopefully, we’ll have some time on Tuesday to talk about this. I posted some images for discussion on this topic on Thursday before class, but we didn’t get a chance to discuss them.


    Note how there are hardly any shadows in the supermarket scene — we can read it as a safe, well lighted space, free of moral ambiguity. What else does American capitalism promise us other than safety, security and freedom from moral ambiguity. I may be overstating the case, but we should definitely discuss this. It will come up again when we talk about Romero’s Dawn of the Dead in a couple of weeks.

  3. Why do you think it’s ironic? Tell us more. And what could be the significance of the fact that that well-lighted public place is a supermarket? What does Naremore say about it?

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