Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity ★★★★½

Double Indemnity is one of the earliest examples of noir movies, it follows all the typical genre stylistic features, it plays with shadows, both to help the plot and to bestow a sense of claustrophobia on the picture, enhancing the ambiguous, dark relationship between our two main characters: the seemingly innocent man, that is drawn into the plot by the most recognizable, iconic type created by this genre, the femme fatale.


The femme fatale persona has defined literature since forever, examples of femme fatales can be seen in Dangerous Liasons or in mid 19th century sensation novels; in movies the earliest example of femme fatale can be found in 1910s silent films , particularly in the figure of the vamp (that derivates from vampires), but it is in the 1940s, and in particular in noir film, that the femme fatale assumes the characteristics we all know. She is dangerous, both to people around them and to society, she challenges the norms of her time by asserting herself, her needs and her desires in the world, a woman that is not afraid to express herself as more than just an object for male fantasies, she instead overturns this conception by appropriating the sexual connotations she had and making them their own. Yes, she is presented as sexy to the audience, but that's because she wants to be, not because others want her to be like that. Sex is also one of the main themes in noir movies, the tension established between the two leads takes them to committ criminous actions in order to be able to be together. Of course both the femme fatale and sex, which are linked indissolubly together, cannot be presented to society as positive, instead they become rotten, symbols of corruption, and, if the main male lead is able to escape society's judgment thanks to his male nature that puts him in a privileged position, the woman cannot escape the same judgment. She is the corrupter, the temptress, she has to be punished by the end, when she embarks on her dark journey is already clear, to her and to the audience, she won't be successful, and so she is constantly tormented, yet unable to redeem.


Double Indemnity sets the path for the noir that will follow, and it perfectly establish the particular style of this kind of movies, which is almost unbelievable when considering that director Wilder was, as he said, unaware of what he was doing at the time.

As in any Wilder's movie, the one thing that shine over all others is the script, it builds its tension slowly, a puzzle that is being solved in front of the incredulous eyes of the viewer, that at the beginning doesn't have any clue, and tries to imagine what it could have happened, searching for keys in each scene. The tension is also made more efficient by the use of in medias res narration, at the very beginning we are presented with a man, shot in the shoulders, that makes his last confession, this serves a double purpose, firstly, the viewers are immediately captured in the plot, as they want to know how this man came to this situation, and secondly, it establish a terrifying sense of impending, inescapable doom, and even if the viewers already know the ending will be anything but happy, they can't but hope for the main characters to succeed.

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