Film-Noir, one of the truly classic genres yet no one can ever really describe what it is. Is it the style of the picture? The characters that inhabit it? The proper definition is, a movie characterized by low-key lighting, a bleak urban setting and corrupt cynical setting. All in all that’s a pretty accurate character description. Born from the German expressionism, and then implanted during World War II in America, film-noir has a special spot in most film goers’ hearts. It’s truly a genre that might be dead and can never be resurrected. Sure there are some modern noirs, now called neo-noirs, but the true noir has passed on. But many great films have been made from this; today we discuss “Double Indemnity”
Double Indemnity was written and directed by Billy Wilder; it came out in 1944 and was one of the first Film Noirs made. It was nominated for 7 Oscars but won none. Double Indemnity is a true classic and for most watchers stays new every time. The main character is Walter Neff; he is an Insurance salesman who is Phyllis Dietrichson to kill off her husband. The two character go through the motions of a normal film noir murder, but what are they feeling and why do they do it is what’s interesting. Phyllis seems like the normal cold hearted femme fatale that inhabited most film noirs. But at the end when she can’t fire the second shot at Neff, do we wonder if she truly loved the man. Neff never seems truly in love with Phyllis, but more bored and intrigued with the thought of killing Phyllis.
Another key relationship is between Neff and Keyes; Keyes is a mentor figure to Neff but eventually becomes his enemy as Neff commits the murder. You never get a true gauge to Neff’s feeling towards Phyllis, but with Neff’s voice over and the ending of the film you get that Neff loves Keyes and wants Keyes to figure out that it was him who killed Phyllis’s husband.
The thing that loved about Billy Wilder is that he doesn’t go to for the obvious character arc. He never wants the truth, but only the consequences, which is exactly what you get in Double Indemnity. Double Indemnity is truly a cinema classic and deserves to be watched over and over.