One thought on “For discussion: Shadow and Light in Double Indemnity

  1. The light and shadow stick to Walter Neff like the stripes on an old-timey prison jumpsuit. The first two pictures, I believe, are early on in the movie when he first meets Phyllis at her house– before any sort of criminal plot is hatched between the two. The prison stripes stick to him even there, possibly foreshadowing the moral descent Walter would take through the course of the film.

    At the very least, I think the shadow/light stripes make him less sympathetic from the outset. If he was completely bathed in light at the beginning, and he made the transition from that portrayal to that of the shadow/light stripes in the first two pictures as the film went on, then I might be inclined to think that his character had some sort of goodness in his heart that Phyllis corrupted. But all I see is a prison jumpsuit sticking to him from the earliest part of the film’s timeline.

    Maybe this is going a little bit too far, but I have an idea. The majority of events from this movie have already taken place in the context of the film’s timeline, which means that the majority of scenes are being dictated to Keyes from Walter’s perspective. Well, narrators are often unreliable; perhaps Walter is deliberately portraying himself as being covered in prison stripes– as a sort of self-flagellation for his plot with Phyllis. Certainly he did care for Lola’s fate, which means he’s not all bad.

    To sum it up, since the majority of the film is part of a narration by Walter to Keyes, Walter could be responsible for the shadow/light stripes on his person in the narration because he regrets the course he followed in the timeline as it actually occured (as in, the timeline that lead to the events which Walter narrated– from HIS perspective– to Keyes). This theory can be taken with a grain of salt, but I still think the shadow/light stripes look like a prison jumpsuit in the first two screenshots!

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