This week we watched the film noir Double Indemnity. Normally this is the part where I go through and find things I liked about the movie, however this week I must say that I didn’t like much about the movie. The reason the film didn’t suit my tastes is that everyone had to be dirty. There were no characters with sound morals or unbroken integrity. Consequently the entire movie was one downer after another.
The main character of the film is Walter Neff. Neff seems like your average run of the mill salesman. He is very charismatic, easy to talk to, and not the ugliest guy you’ve ever seen. However, when me makes a routine visit to renew an auto insurance policy he bites off more than he can chew when he meets Phyllis Dietrichson. Dietrichson draws Neff into her plan to take out an insurance policy on her husband, Mr. Dietrichson, and ultimately kill him to collect the insurance money. Dietrichson, in my opinion, is a good character, but only because she pulls off the idea of the femme fatale. She uses Neff by using her own sexuality to draw him into a web of destruction that for some reason Neff seems to glorify. Neff knows it’s not a good plan because of men like his boss, Barton Keyes. Keyes is basically the only character in the story with any sense of right and wrong, however I think even his judgment is skewed because of his love for money. With the distorted views the characters bring to the table the fates of Neff and Dietrichson could be concluded as soon as Keyes was introduced. Neff knew the plan was futile. He was trying to cheat death in a sense, but he failed.
So, what is cool about this film? I can’t really tell. Am I supposed to take pleasure in the seedy underbelly of our world? Am I supposed to bask in the glory of betrayal and corruption? I can’t. To me these are attributes that are looked down upon, not glorified. If there was a caption at the beginning of Public Enemy why wasn’t there a caption at the beginning of this? At least at the end of that film it seemed as though the main character had realized what he had done was wrong, and had come to terms with himself. However in this film he doesn’t even show remorse. He betrayed his friend/boss, killed the woman he thought that loved him, and ended up dead. To me, the end is all but fitting to conclude the broken tale of a man that could have been more, but chose a life that was so much less.