Film and Theater Studies Admission Essay on Definition of Double indemnity as a Film Noir

Definition of Double indemnity as a Film Noir

Theorists and critics have differently defined film noir.Some see it as a genre portrayed by its visual aesthetic while others categorize it by its moody atmosphere and cloud of immorality and weakness. Gaylyn Studler collects some of these views and argues film noir to be a combination of all features demonstrated in post-World War II Hollywood crime melodramas such as the circular narrative and low key lighting. In addition, other features that involve violence, corruption, obsessive desire and ambiguous morals and sexually bold American crime film enhance the aforementioned aspect. However, it is hard not to see that double indemnity is based on a crime of passion and adultery creating film noir mood of danger and attraction.

Low key lighting is used to define the word ‘dark film’, and is argued to be the main feature of the noir film. Double Indemnity has been cited as a dark film whose characters are obstructed by darkness. The faces of characters are shadowed by traditions and modernism. The shadows used reflect the situations within which the characters live. They live in a dangerous environment full of violence, corruption and all the evils of the dynamic world, inhabited by people with ambiguous morals and dubious ambitions.

Film noir features women who have been shadowed by the traditional norms and the nuclear family- the femme fatele . According to Gaylyn Studler, masochism theories view the world as aesthetically centered, too convincing, full of myths and revolving around idealizing the role of a woman hence punishing her. Studler borrowed these ideas from masochism theories and stated, “….In her ideal form as representative of the powerful oral mother, the female in the masochistic scenario is not sadistic, but must inflict cruelty in love to fulfill her role in the mutually agreed upon masochistic scheme”. This is seen in the film where the woman does not agree to act as a submissive wife and a loving mother as indicated by the society. From her perspective, she sees marriage as loveless and sexless. This makes her too cunning and uses her sexual attractiveness to gain some sense of independence in her life. Phyllis Dietrichson lacks freedom in her husband’s home as she describes it as to be too confining that she can’t even breathe. She decides to use cruel means and murders her husband because he shows no affection for her but total indifference. It is clearly evidentin the movie that the institution of marriage is not in harmony with sexuality. Moreover, pleasure and death are beyond the circle of what is considered rightful family relations.

Double indemnity is composed of elements with hardboiled languages since there are two legends used in the script.The film adapted the original novel written by James M.Cain while Raymond Chandler focused on its co-adaptation. Double Indemnity also utilizes the first person narrator as well as sardonic descriptive dialogues that happen to be features of hardboiled fiction as well as film noir. Films made in the 1930s that had a gangster theme were adopted by film noir through a depiction of violence.In the film, Phyllis and Dietrichson use evocative, witty and suggestive lines that appear to be sparring from one another.

Having a strong influence on the film history, the film creates a strong impact on the audience. This strong influence is associated with danger and desire. The film brings out the worst in the characters and provides a new ending of confession and sentimental farewell teaching us to resist our cruel cravings.

Works Cited

Studlar, Gaylyn. In the Realm of Pleasure: Von Sternberg, Dietrich, and the Masochistic Aesthetic. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988. Print.