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This is a rather grim Billy Wilder film, far removed from the light and brilliantly witty comedies most people praise him for. It is the story of a man being dragged down by “money and a woman”, and in the end he gets neither. This is no spoiler, it is what he tells us in the first minutes, coming into his office, drenched from rain and blood, telling his story into a voice recorder so that his friend the insurance agent will learn the truth.

I can’t say that all the characters hold up to today’s story-telling and story-reading habits: especially Walter Neff, the main character and plotter, with his 40s platitudes and slightly ridiculous machismo needs a bit of tolerance by the audience. On the other hand, this chauvinistic attitude of his (ending every sentence to a woman with “baby”) all the more grants him to be treated as an ignorant idiot, being led by the nose by whatever skirt stands in front of him. And Barbara Stanwyck’s Mrs Dietrichson is not just any femme fatale, she is a cunning spider that spun a web and lures Walter in.

It is especially the interaction with insurance buddy and good guy played by Edward G. Robinson that drives the plot, he is well placed to be a bit rough but with a good heart, he loves Walter and hates himself for being unable to solve the riddle of the death of Mrs Dietrichson’s husband.

Certainly a classic of the noire genre, especially as it is constructed in a certain non-conformistic Wilder-way. I am glad I finally had a chance to see it.

One Comment

  1. I just found your site, but like the movies your watching. I love Double Indemnity, and its mostly due to the noir that Wilder plays so well. Of course it doesn’t hurt that Barbara Stanwyck is so incredibly sexy in this role. Thanks for the post. I look forward to reading more.

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