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Double Indemnity - Film Review

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by Juran Hakim (subscribe)
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Published June 18th 2014
Theatrical release poster

A classic film noir production, one in which slots seamlessly into the fray of its counterparts and its residing franchise in which was coined by French film critics in the early 40's. The blatant immoral consensus of murder inspired by adultery is innate and objectionable since the opening sequence of the film Double Indemnity suggests critical discourse, conspiracy and murder.

Double Indemnity (directed by Billy Wilder, 1944) posses all of the recurrent themes and motifs in which transcend it; gives it a unique characteristic compared to other film productions by Hollywood in its time frame, indeed which is all under the heading of the 'Classical Hollywood' period, 'Classical Hollywood Narrative' or the so-called 'Golden Age of Hollywood'; such films as 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' (1953) starring Marilyn Monroe; a stage musical, and the silent film era. Film Noir is token for it being more aesthetic and as an art form, which is noted when viewing scenes where dark lighting, heavy shadows, neon lights and sinister/mysterious music are profoundly shown throughout the narrative. This then leads on to 'emancipating' Film Noir from the restraints of film genre; for the reason that the films holding these same themes can have different plots, storylines and topics.

The position of the frame in relation to the subject shows a conventional advance typically found in film noir's; the sometimes odd angle shot of the door, suggesting an imbalance that is shared aplenty by the onscreen characters. Features of camera placement and mobility often find the audience behind the main character or viewing him (and other characters) masked in shadow and darkness, creating a sense of misdemeanour or facade, discouraging the viewer to build a personal perception of the character.

The camera makes sure to capture the shadows on the wall and floor, giving the mise-en-scene an ominous look. Although characters faces are often half-masked in shadow the angle of the camera, shot from a low perspective creating reproach (low-shot), or high-angle shots show enough of the actors face to convey what emotion is needed.

Editing is progressive and ostensibly prolonged as if conveying certain suspense, willing the audience to be involved in the dialogue or plot. The sound is astutely inputted at such times of reminiscence, heart-felt emotion or struggle; this adds more impact to the cause of action, grabbing the viewer's attention now that the music/soundtrack is now heard.

What is shown in the frame overlapped and strengthened by the black and white aesthetics is the deep usage of shadows. These colourations denote diversity in a sense of light and dark; evil and good etc. Many meanings are created from the simple choice of colour, in the case of a 1940's 'Classical' film - the tone. The opening entrance and sequence to Double Indemnity uses dimness, shade and gloominess to emit shadow, assorted together with conspicuous and mysterious music generates and builds what is essentially Film Noir (black film).

Other themes which can be transmitted into a more aesthetic form in the case of film noir, such as the detective role the sensibility to work out the mystery/plot. The uncomplicated smoking of a cigarette is a classic nuance to Hollywood in the middle 90's; relating to (at that time) society and how it was perceived. The lighting creating a silhouette, usually emitting from the half closed blinds is an artifice cleverly used to play with light and certainly mood; light is apparent but in small concentrated amounts.

The development of the narrative in Double Indemnity takes on the typical conventions of film noir; the recounting of the past where the plot is revealed and the story is realised, viewers begin to understand the cause and why. What often happens in 'Classic Hollywood' films is the advancement of the storyline; how the resolution of the story takes form. Regardless of how complex the script at the exposition may seem, the conclusion/outcome more often than not is simplistic, this simplicity has become conventional when it comes to film noir. From the inception of a twisted conspiracy of murder, in which renovates itself to be solved and brought to an end with an arrest or tragic death. Film noirs consisting of these aspects are easily identifiable and are categorized because of it.

The stylistic characteristics of the 'Classic Hollywood Film' are numerous and are all submitted into the ideology of the film; social organisation of economic life and the means of production/the base of society all have involvement into how on-screen characters act and perform. The time period will reflect upon the film and mise-en-scene 'A window on the world' where film will show aspects of how people live at the time of production, the film culture, general society, political etc. In the case of film noir and Double Indemnity aspects can be applied within a context; the rebellious nature always shown in films like 'Casablanca' (1942) etc, can be related to the emotions felt post WW2.

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Why? Always nice to go retro once in a while
Where: DVD
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