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The film, ‘Double Indemnity’ is different from the other film noir, where the hero of the play usually manages to get himself out of trouble and has control over his actions. Walter Neff, who is the leading male character, is not in control of his actions. He is tempted by a beautiful woman and money hence the title of the film “Double Indemnity”. Neff works for an Insurance company as a salesman. He is a kind, hopples and ruthless murderer, who is easily convinced and used by a woman to achieve her desires.
The leading woman character is Phyllis Dietrichson. She is beautiful, and uses her beauty to trap Neff to be her accomplice in the murder of her husband. She has an innocent look but she turns out to be a malicious woman, who is authoritative, and one who will do anything to get what she wants. She controls the men in the film and this became a favourite of many female audiences, who enjoyed seeing a woman in control of the situation. The reason for this is that at that time men had total control over women. Her appearance on the staircase dressed in a towel only portrays her as a helpless woman, who later turns out to be scheming and lethal. This scene was highly criticized by many as they saw it as a provocative scene.
The two leading characters plan to murder Phyllis’s husband then sell the $50,000 double indemnity policy to her. They arrange for an “accidental death “where they strangle the husband. Later on, Neff pretends to be Phyllis’s husband and jumps off a train. The reason why Phyllis decided to kill the husband was because she was bored and her husband had lost money. After killing the husband, they get the money, but what transpired between them is not known as the movies during those times did not show scenes where the characters make love.
The two portray deception, deceit greed and sex appeal. Many did not like this as they saw it as a possible crime idea or anyone who was in a similar situation. They did not like it because many young people could be tempted kill their spouses so as to get wealthy easily and fast.
Barton Keyes is Neff’s boss in the insurance company. He has good morals and does his job well. His instincts never fail him and in this case he felt that something was not right concerning the death of Phyllis’s husband. He investigates and realizes that Phyllis’s husband did not commit suicide but was murdered. However, he does not suspect Neff.
The movie is full of betrayals. First, Phyllis betrays her husband by killing him. She goes ahead to have a relationship with Nino her step daughter’s boyfriend. Lola suspects that her step mother murdered her father and tells Keyes. Neff discovers that Phyllis is having an affair with Nino and decides to use him as a scapegoat. Phyllis confession to Neff that he has been seeing Nino to convince him to kill Lola leads to a heated argument where Phyllis shooting Neff in the arm. She does not pull the trigger a second time and she ends up being killed by Neff. Neff then goes back to the office and makes a confession on the Dictaphone. He is hoping that he will manage to go to Mexico to escape going to prison but even though the curtains are closed before he dies it is quite obvious that his end was very near.
“Double Indemnity “, serves as an everlasting warning to all men everywhere. They should be weary of women with seductive bodies, who will only use them and leave them when they have gotten what they wanted. Most of the audience felt that only men like Keyes could escape such traps and would have been a better character had he played the role of Neff.
The low tones used when acting this movie is unacceptable for screen presentation where the audience are mixed in the theatre. It would have been more appropriate to avoid scenes that may give negative ideas to the young, who can be tempted to participate in criminal activities.
The film presents both genders in a different perspective. The woman is given a role, where she is in control; something which was not common at that time. She uses her beauty as a means of getting what she wants. This fact might not have been liked by many as it seemed like an encouragement for women to use what they have to get what they do not have. Some might have even put into action what they saw.
Men have been given two roles: the role played by Keyes and that of Neff. Neff is weak man, who is easily swayed by his emotions. He agrees to all the plans because he has been promised love, sex and money by Phyllis. This is ironic because in the real world it is normally women, who are tempted by such things. The writer has used him to show a different species of men, who are weak and can easily fall into traps set by women.
Keyes plays the role of the strong men with good moral values and thinks first before getting himself into anything. He suspects that there is something fishy about the death of Phyllis’s husband and starts investigating.
The production of the film is good except in the scenes, where only shadows are seen, and the audience have to imagine what is going behind the curtains.