Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity is one of the best representatives of the film noir era in Hollywood as it contains all the main characteristics of the genre. The general darkness present throughout the movie is embodied in the plot which reveals the moral bankruptcy of the main characters. It is also present in the mise-en-scene choices such as the dark costumes and modest lighting with the great emphasis on shadows (Allyn 1978, p. 117). The main character’s voice-over, another important film noir characteristic, brings this darkness to life and communicates it to the audience with brutal honesty. One of the scenes of the film which contains all of these features is the one where the two main characters, Neff and Phyllis, meet for the first time. This scene will be analysed with respect to the main film noir elements and techniques that were used in the making of it – mainly mise en scene, the voice-over and the screenplay.
This scene introduces the femme fatale character Phyllis Dietrichson and starts a relationship between her and Neff – a relationship which sets out the plot for rest of the film. The scene focuses on Phyllis’ use of sexual appeal to gain control over Neff and try to use him to fulfil her twisted of murdering her husband. Wilder uses several filming elements characteristic to film noir in the scene in order to display the nature of Neff and Phyllis’ relationship from the very moment they met.
The scene starts with a bright shot set outdoors as Neff is heading to Mr. Dietrichson’s house – a shot uncharacteristic to film noir standards. However, the next shot contrasts the initial one greatly, as Neff walks in and is instantly swallowed by the darkness and shadows of the...
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... contributed to the style the film was represented in and created a concept which leads the audience into the dark world of danger and moral bankruptcy and makes them question their basic ethical values – a concept present in every movie of the film noir genre.
Allyn, J. (1978). Double indemnity: A policy that paid off. Literature/Film Quarterly, 6(2), 116-124.
Borde, R., & Chaumeton, E. (1996). Towards a definition of film noir. Film Noir Reader, 17-25.
Bordwell D, 2006. Film Art: an Introduction. 8th Edition. Mcgraw-Hill College.
Bronfen, E. (2004). Femme Fatale--Negotiations of Tragic Desire. New Literary History, 35(1), 103-116.
Dick, B. F. (1995). Columbia's Dark Ladies and the Femmes Fatales of Film Noir. Literature Film Quarterly, 23, 155-162.
Wilder, B. (Director). (1944). Double Indemnity [Motion Picture]. United States.
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