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It is indeed true that “Double Indemnity” represents one of the best examples of a film noir and has also been viewed to set some standards for the upcoming movies. In film noir, elements like violence, sexual harassments, adultery, crime and greed are representatives of similar evil types in the society with a moral conflict emerging at the base of the plot (Gene 145).
Considering the characteristics of film noir, the “Double Indemnity” film seems to cover almost all of them. The film contains the ambiguous antihero, stories driven by crime, shady lighting and some other several qualities that qualify it in the genre. This is actually a perfect example of a film noir with dark stories that are criminally manipulated. In the movie, Walter Neff says that, “Yes, I killed him. I killed him for money and a woman, and I didn’t get the money, and I didn’t get the woman. Pretty, isn’t it?” (Gene 170). This line actually gives us the overall view of the film’s move as being dark and pessimistic. Walter Neff as played by Fred MacMurray goes to renew his automobile insurance and engages in an adulterous affair with Phyllis Dietrichson as played by Barbara Stanwyick who was an already married woman. This actually demonstrates a typical film noir relationship. From this, the viewers can actually justify from the actions that these characters are doomed (Leitch 126).
In a film noir, lighting forms one of the important principles of aesthetics and also provides clues to the function of the characters. For example, as Neff enters the office, only thin white light bars are seen. They appear projected across Neff’s chest as if he is in jail. But as he puts the lights on, the room suddenly changes to being flooded with white as all the shadow are eliminated. This technique enables the viewers to have a hint on the nature of Neff’s actions. “that he is seeking redemption, bringing himself out of the shadows metaphorically, in the form of a confession, into the light” (Leitch 113). In other words, all this help the viewers to get to understand the character as well as narrative function of Neff as Male Protagonist which is actually a vital component of classic film noir. Double indemnity also begins with music that is non-diagetic. This installs the viewers with a sense of urgency and action that is expected.
The characters in the movies are flawed but one will still love and enjoy watching them since they are real. Not all the characters in the film overcome immerse odds like prevention of the world destruction or saving the village. We find some characters giving into sin making, then enjoy the brief excitement and eventually pay the consequences of their actions (Leitch 145). Film noir characters are very real but their ending is not good. For example, Neff’s destiny arrives after him just after he is inside his apartment. “NEFF: So at eight o’clock the bell would ring and I would know who it was without even having to think, as if it was the most natural thing in the world” (Leitch 153). Eventually Phyllis shows up and they passionately embrace each other. She speaks ill of her husband as a volatile and controlling man always getting into her nerves. Neff finally gives in to help her murder her husband to gain the insurance cash.
Themes in the “Plague”
Exile/separation. This theme is evident by Rieux and Rambert. The two characters are separated from the love of their life (women they love). The theme also appears in many other citizens whose names were note mentioned but were separated form their own loved ones. Considering the closure of Oran gates, the individuals who happened to be still out of town were locked out. The town entirely feels in exile for being separated from the rest of the outside world. According to Rieux explanation, he expresses “That sensation of a void within which never left us, that irrational longing to hark back to the past or else to speed up the march of time, and those keen shafts of memory that stung like fire” (Camus 187). Considering somebody like Rambert, he is not only separated from the person he wants to be with but also restricted from being in own apartment or home. Therefore, exile suggests deep metaphysical implication that relates to loss of belief that individuals dwell in environments where they can be free to achieve goals, find meaning and feel at home.
Religion. People are always fond of turning to religion at times of calamities as the novel examines. Paneloux (the priest) gives religious perspective in his sermons in contrast to Rambert, Rieux and Tarrou’s humanist beliefs. Paneloux believes that indeed there is a rational explanation to the plaque’s outbreak unlike the other characters. He describes the outbreak as a “flail of God” in his first sermon after the outbreak. He says that God had intentions of separating wheat from chaff (good from bad). According to his description, it was not the will of God for the calamity. “He looked on the evil-doing in the town with compassion; only when there was no other remedy did He turn His face away, in order to force people to face the truth about their life” (Malcolm 26). Therefore, according to the Priest, the ultimate goal of suffering is achieving the good in a way that the light of God will still shine despite of the horrible events with Christian hope being grated to everyone.
Love. The theme of love is widely demonstrated in this novel. As much as love for mankind can make one sacrifice own self interest to defend the interests of the society, the opposite seems to be true with love for individuals. The novel discusses towards the end that a human being does not hope for anything more than just love especially when avoiding disappointments. Considering the plaque, the priest expresses that this is only because of the too much love that God has for them. Love is also evident from Rieux’s reactions towards Rambert including his attempt to escape. He says that, “Forgive me Rambert, only well, I simply don’t know. But stay with us if you want to. For nothing in the world is it worth turning one’s back on what one loves. Yet that is what I’m doing, though I do not know” (Malcolm 68). Given three things in life: love, work and death; Rieux chooses to work and claims that it is his duty to do so while Rambert counters this by choosing to love more than to do his job.
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