Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity, written and directed in 1944 by Billy Wilder, is an early and classic noir film. Like all noir films, I saw it first in a class. Our class was an hour and a half long - the movie is almost two. My professor fast-forwarded through the parts he thought we ok to cull, explaining them to us as he did it. We also had to read the book, so I feel like I didn't ever really miss that much. Somehow, this is true. Watching it again, I felt like I had seen it really recently. I really like this movie, though, so I was happy to watch it again.

The movie is about Walter Neff, an insurance salesman, and Phyllis Dietrichson, a housewife. Walter comes by one day selling auto insurance, and he is interested in the attractive woman. She wants him to come back when her husband is home at a later date. When he shows up, it's just her, no husband, no maid, and she wants to know about accident insurance. Walter suggests she has the intention to kill her husband and get the money. Did she, or did he just suggest it? It doesn't matter. Driven by a lust that is played out only in double entrendres, they come up with a plan to kill the husband. Walter thinks he is smarter than everyone else, and he is convinced that they can do it right. If you've seen Body Heat, this plot should sound pretty familiar, since it was loosely based on this book. Things go well, they think, but you already know they didn't - the movie opens with Walter confessing.

I feel like I wrote so much about the book and this movie that I don't have much left to say! In Ebert's essay, he writes about something pretty interesting - do these two people like each other? It's hard to say. Because of the censorship in films at this time, there isn't really a moment where we see them intimate in any way. Ebert is confused as well, writing, "I guess they also make love; in 1944 movies you can't be sure, but if they do, it's only the once" (The Great Movies, 144). I never really thought about this angle before, so it's interesting to ponder. To some extent it doesn't matter - the characters don't have much depth. They just sort

I think I especially love this movie because, while I liked the book, it was much more confusing. I had to read it in a weekend and I got really lost as it went on. I like that the plot is simplified here. The characters are simple, and you can pay attention to what really shines in this film - the dialogue. It's so sharp. I don't know how many times I've had to see various scenes from this movie as an example of witty dialogue. It's fun to watch and listen to, and that's really my favorite part of the film.

I think that movies like this are worth renting and checking out. They're more fun to watch than most things on TV, and more witty and interesting than most things in theaters. I mean, as simple as the plot is to follow, it's more engrossing than movies I've paid to see recently. I feel like a lot of people brush off older movies (and by a lot of people, I mean people my age who aren't into movies as a hobby), which is sad. I think that you miss out on a lot of engaging stories, like this one, by doing this. You get conditioned to be one of those people who, when critics complain about a stupid action movie, say, "What did you expect, Gone With The Wind?" I did. You should. Everyone should expect a strong story from a movie, and older films are great examples that even B-pictures had great effort put into them.

If I sound meh about this, I'm not. I'm just sleepy and I'm doing some temp work while I look for a real job, and I have to get up at 6am for it, which exhausts my lazy self. So please pardon my blaaaah while I adjust to this. :)

Have any of you seen Double Indemnity? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!

Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Double Indemnity


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