Comparison: The Square (2008) and Double Indemnity (1944)

Similarities

  • Both ‘The Square’ and ‘Double Indemnity’ have a Femme fatale, a mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers (often leading them into compromising and dangerous situations). In ‘The Square’ the Femme fatale is Carla, who acts as a temptress to Raymond leading him to question the marriage he has with his wife and what he is willing to do for Carla. This ultimately leads to the death of Carla as she is shot dead in the middle of a gunfight between Raymond, Billy and Greg Smith (Carla’s husband). As for ‘Double Indemnity’ the Femme fatale is undoubtedly the role of Phyllis. Phyllis is a married woman who meets the protagonist, Walter, and through her charm she entices Walter, convincing him to abandon reason and plotting the murder of her husband so that she may receive the insurance money for the accident policy Walter created. Thus it can be said that Femme fatale is an aspect still being held up in Neo-noir film and has not been removed over the years.
  • The central objective of both of these storylines is for the main characters to obtain a collection of money and run off together to pursue their lovelife. In ‘The Square’ this is offered to viewers as Ray and Carla depict stealing Carla’s husband’s stash from the attic and starting new lives together with the money. In ‘Double Indemnity’ a similar scenario is taken place as Walter pins an accident policy on Phyllis’ husband. The policy being that if her husband is killed by accidental or unintentional means then a large sum of money is given to the family, meaning Phyllis would receive it. With this money they too intended on running away and living together.
  • The theme forbidden love is promoted through Carla and Roy’s engagements to their respective husbands/wives as well as Phyllis’ engagement to her respected husband.
  • The dominance of man is present in both productions 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 listens to Raymond for guidance and reasoning and is ultimately killed because of it. So it can easily be said that men are created out to be superior still in Neo Noir, and that this is not simply just a thing of Film Noir from the past.
  • Notions of materialism are present as all the masculine characters care about is wealth, status, possessions and sex. This is supported in ‘Double Indemnity’ as 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.
  • The abuse of women comes from the dominance of man. This is present in both films as Phyllis confesses to Walter that she “never wanted to kill him (Mr Dietrichson), not even when he’s drunk and slaps me across the face…”. This is also shown in the Neo Noir film through Greg beating up Carla as she persistently denies stealing his stash of money.

Differences

  • The shots in Film Noir go for longer than they do in Neo Noir, and they vary less in experimental/extreme shot angles such as bird’s eye and worm’s eye (they aren’t evidently used in this film). 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. Whereas in Neo Noir, directors occasionally include shots that focus on the person listening to what is being spoken to watch them as they comprehend what is being said.
  • In Film Noir the usage of an Iris transition was a highly common and popular transition to be used at the end of a scene. This is evident in ‘Double Indemnity’ during the closing of a scene where the camera focuses in on the object of a handgun, blacking out everything else in the frame. This however is not used nowhere near as much as it is today in Neo Noir, and not present in ‘The Square’.
  • The complexity of the narrative is an aspect of the two styles which has grown to become far more convoluted over the years since the 1940s and ‘Double Indemnity’. This is supported through there being a wide range of threats being received by Ray in ‘The Square’ from multiple people, confusing the audience as to who each of them are and what they have to threaten him with and what they know. It’s far more undemanding in ‘Double Indemnity’ as it is just simply about an insurance rep who is persuaded by an attractive woman to take part in murder/insurance fraud for a sum of cash.

 

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