Double Indemnity Notes

Film Noir elements/scenarios: 

viewing of film (part 1)
  • The entire film is displayed in black and white because it was produced in the early 1940s. It also conveys a sense of defeatism and negativity as it appears very bleak and dark.
  • The opening scene/credits is comprised of tension-building music and a man on crutches making his way through what appears to be a fog of mist. Nobody else can be seen except this man. This man is clothed in a very archetypal outfit which is a business suit and a traditional fedora.
  • The following scene consists of an old-fashioned car (reasonable in the 1940s) speeding and going all over the road. There is also an engineer working on the road, from the light of his fiery tool the setting is established on a sign which reads ‘Los Angeles Railway Corp.’.
  • The car races through a ‘Stop’ sign, foreshadowing the wrongness in an action the protagonist may commit in the near future within the film.
  • Upon entering his office building and his own room, he sits down and firstly takes out a pack of cigarettes and smokes one. Walter picks up his cord phone from in front of him and calls someone called ‘Keyes’, and makes a confession to a murder that someone else was accused of being the culprit of.
  • “I killed him for money, I killed him for a girl” “I didn’t get the money, and I didn’t get the girl”. – Walter Neff. Very stereotypical motives for a man (possessions), and also suggests that Phyllis (the girl) may act as a Femme Fatale in this film.
  • “My husband never tells me anything”, “He isn’t home much before 8” – Phyllis Dietrichson. Implies the likelihood of there already being an affair with her husband and another woman.
  • “That’s enough of you Walter, now get out of here before I throw my desk at you” – Barton Keyes. A non-serious threat meant to be taken as a joke, but nevertheless hints at the possibility of Walter receiving future threats for the murder he is yet to commit.
  • Voice-over is occasionally used with the protagonist narrating himself in past-tense, he’s telling the story of what has already happened.
  • “Don’t you think he should have some sort of… accident insurance?” – Phyllis to Walter about the safety of her husband
  • “Some nights we just sit around and don’t talk to each other. So I just sit and knit” – Phyllis to Walter
  • “And with me around you wouldn’t have to knit” – Walter to Phyllis
  • “You mean you want to have the policy without him knowing it” – Walter to Phyllis. Suggests that Phyllis wants to kill her husband and make it look like an accident so that she can receive the insurance money all to herself.
  • Walter moves across from the table over to the couch that Phyllis is seated on half-way through their conversation and has his arm around the back of her. This could be read as a claiming of ownership as women in the late 1930s and early 1940s were dehumanised to the significance of a mere possession as opposed to a fellow human being.
  • “I hate him, I loathe going back to him, you believe me don’t you Walter?” – Phyllis. During this scene there is a close-up shot showing the juxtapositioning of Walter and Phyllis, revealing their strong love (or at least attraction) for each other.
  • “This is going to be perfect don’t you understand? Straight down the line.” – Walter about the murdering of her husband to Phyllis. This is shown from a medium-shot at eye-level unveiling the power Walter holds over Phyllis as she is forced to look up to gain eye contact with him. He is looking down at her, showing his superiority in the relationship.

Much like in ‘The Square’, this is a movie based around an affair between a man and a woman. The only difference being that in this movie the man (Walter) is not married himself. Walter lives in a small place, and Phyllis lives in a rather respectable house. Just like Ray and Carla as Carla lives in a small unsafe neighborhood and Ray lives in a good neighborhood.

  • “Bring me some soda when you come up Phyllis” – Mr. Dietrichson. Shows him ordering his wife around, further supporting my idea that men felt at the time that they owned their wives.6

Time: 41:18

  • “Its like a war between us” – Phyllis, they can’t keep themselves away from eachother. Much like Ray and Carla to the extent that there is quite literally a war ongoing and a series of conflicts including Carla’s husband and Ray’s suspicious co-workers and associates.

The shots in Film Noir go for longer than they do today, and the vary less in experimental shot angles such as bird’s eye and worm’s eye (they are barely used at all). The shots end upon the last word of dialogue, swapping to the next character who replies to what has been said and vise versa. Meaning that during a conversation, the shot tends to always focus on the person speaking.

“As if she couldn’t wait to see how she would look in mourning” – Lola Dietrichson. Makes the ideology that women are often blamed as opposed to men. Lola doesn’t stop to think if the murderer was a man, and instead immediately convinced herself that Phyllis was guilty.

The dominance of man is present in both movies as Walter constantly gives Phyllis commandments such as “come over here”, “keep her out of it” and “stop saying that”. This is much like how in ‘The Square’, Carla is the character that is ultimately killed during a fight between two men. So it can easily be said that men are created out to be superior both in Film Noir and Neo Noir. Evidently shown in both movies. Fu

  • Uses an Iris transition at the end of a scene focusing in on a handgun. The Iris transition is a very old fashioned transition which focuses in the audience’s attention onto a sole single person or thing. This is hardly used anymore in cinema (including Neo-Noir) and absent in The Square.
  • Male superiority is further endorsed as Walter murders Phyllis in cold blood saying, “goodbye baby”.

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