Classic Film Noir film research- Double Indemnity

Double indemnity (1944)                                                                                                       

  • Black and white
  • Chiaroscuro
  • Foregrounded sound knocking
  • Cagy character inspector looking
  • Slow tense music for enigma
  • Dark scenes and dark plot
  • Beautiful women/femme fatale
  • Male voiceover of character shows what he is thinking
  • Light coming through the window
  • Old fashioned props, telephone, typewriter, make up, clothes
  • Smart sophisticated man
  • Dark room, light outside
  • Light focuses eyes on what we should look at
  • One light in the room
  • Powerful women
  • Suspicion
  • Rembrandt style side lighting 2 sides of character
  • Suspense hiding behind the door
  • Lighting parallel to the plot
  • Background narrative shows what’s happening
  • Flicks back to commentary
  • Suspicion not supposed to be in office
  • Light on fire emphasized
  • Shots fired MURDER
  • Tense music shadows

In double indemnity classic film noir characteristics were used, for example the lighting was dark in black and white was used this is as at the time there was no colour in films and black and white was the only way to film. In many scenes chiaroscuro was used this is a high contrast in light and could mirror the two sides of personalities the characters have. Also the black and white relate to the pessimistic tone of the film as at the time in which this was set there was a low morale and was a dark time.

There was use of long shadows to emphasize the enigma in the scene as the audience find it difficult to see what is happening and therefore creates a discordant setting. Most of the shots are outside in the dark which is a perfect scene for a film noir setting as the dark setting is parallel to the dark plot.

There is a male voiceover in the film which is a common quality of classic film noir films. The voice is of ‘Walter’ the main character and his thoughts of what are happening. They are usually of a low voice and of the character in the film, in double indemnity they showed Walter in a chair reciting what was happening.

The film made use of femme fatale where ‘Phyllis’ the beautiful women who make ‘Walter’ fall for her and do exactly what she wants ends up shooting him and deceiving him. Femme fatale is when a woman uses her charm of seduction to make the male do what she wants and then ends in a dark way eg murder.

The use of old-fashioned props were to show the age in which the film was set and by using props such as typewriters and old telephones relate to the time period of about the 40/50’s when the film was set.

Different camera shots were used. For example when the scene was outside in the street/train/house an omniscient shot was used so the audience can see what is happening and everything in the scene. This can create dramatic irony as the audience know something the characters don’t. However this can also create suspense as in the scene in double indemnity where Phyllis hides behind the door away from Keyes we can see all characters and wonder if he will see her. Also in other shots close-ups were used to emphasize the characters expressions and show the audience how they feel. This is 1/5 noir research  that I have done.


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