Double Indemnity (1944)

“Double Indemnity” (1944)

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IMDb

Character drives Fate?

Just before this one, i watched Lang’s ‘Ministry of Fear’. Where Lang was a man getting out of a visual world to enter another one with similar visual effects, but used in a totally different way (and there lies Lang’s difficulties to enter the new world) Billy Wilder was born cinematically in the context of the noir game, was one of the best in it, and made the best film in this first phase, to me. This is his first noir (only his fourth film). You can see where he is going, and to watch this is important if not else, to understand the roots of ‘Sunset Blvd.’, a masterpiece of cinematic storytelling.

So, a common device is the narration where the main character around whom and on the back of whom the whole story develops, narrates the whole thing (in ‘sunset…’ we assumed we were hearing a dead man, here he tapes his own voice, before dying). That’s good, it’s effective in two ways. -First it tells us where the story ends, we know that somehow, something will happen to let the character as we see him at the beginning of the film and it limits the narrative in two points. The images we first get of the character after all happens, and the the first moment of the flashback he narrates. -Also it definitely tells us who the narrator is; we Know that everything we will see is from the eyes and point of view of Neff, and specially, what we don’t see he also hasn’t seen.

The rest is common noir game, several characters fighting for power over the action, Neff, the blond ‘femme’, Zachetti; one woman who is a puppet to every puppeteer, Lola, and a ‘detective’ who in this case is not the center of the story, instead tries to figure things we, audience, already know, and serves as an obstacle to Neff (Robinson’s character).

It fails in some points. I think Stanwyck doesn’t have the required magnetism, and even more when she shares the screen with the marvellous Jean Heather, who poses and acts in far more interesting ways. Her character could have been explored with much more depth, she is Lola(ita!). I suppose the codes and censorship wouldn’t have allowed for something really interesting to be made with her character. Zachetti is supposed to be an unimportant character who turns out to be crucial. But the fact is he doesn’t matter. And the conclusion to the game is weak because it is Neff who chooses his destiny, not the other way around… HE might simply had turn his back and get away with it if it wasn’t for conscience problems. He should have ended tied up but the fate which moved him all along.

My opinion: 3/5

This comment on IMDb

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