Movie Scene Analysis: Double Indemnity

April 3, 2010

The movie I have chosen is Double Indemnity, an American film noir from 1944 directed by Billy Wilder. Basically, the plot of the movie involves Phyllis Dietrichson convincing an insurance salesman, Walter Neff, to kill her husband and make it look like an accident. By having her husband die in an accident, she is entitled to twice the amount of life insurance thanks to a double indemnity clause in his life insurance. The scene I have chosen is the first time Neff meets Phyllis to talk about insurance for her car. The scene begins in this link at 1 minute and ends at 3 minutes 40 seconds.
This scene demonstrates many characteristics of a film noir. Film noirs are known for their low-key black-and-white style. As soon as Neff enters the living room in this scene, we see some examples of this. The blinds in the windows create shadows and a pattern that covers Neff and most of the room. As Neff walks around the room, he gives a voice over describing the room as “still stuffy from last night’s cigars.” This type of voice over is one of the most famous characteristics of a film noir.
Before this scene, Neff is at the door and is invited in by Phyllis who is at the top of the stairs wearing only a towel. She leaves the scene and Neff is alone in the living room. Once Phyllis re-enters the scene, the audience can tell by what Neff’s voice over says that he is attracted to her. The way Phyllis is re-introduced is with a close-up of her legs as she walks down the stairs. This emphasis of sexual motivation is another characteristic of film noirs.
Of course the plot of the movie is very film noir, with a private investigator trying to uncover a murder and Neff having to deal with a femme fatale.

Scene Shot-by-Shot:


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