I went to the cinematheque last Wednesday in White Hall and watched Billy Wilder’s film Double Indemnity(1944). Before the film, Dr.B gave a talk about the background of the film and introduced it as one of the best film noirs in the film history. The film ran for about two hours, and I really enjoyed watching it. I was impressed by the film for various reasons. First, even though he narration of Double Indemnity follows a linear storyline, the development of the film falls beyond my expectations. Because I am already informed who the murderer is at the beginning of the film, I would build expectations towards the characters and the story intuitively; I look forward to seeing how Naff would be seduced by Phyllis instantly, and this explains why I am so surprised to see that Naff rejects Phyllis’ idea of buying insurance for the first time. Another example of how the film creates suspense is that after Naff is fully prepared to murder Phyllis’s husband, he is told by Phyllis later that her husband would not take the train that night. I think this unpredictably of the story adds a lot of charm to it.
Second, I like the melancholic atmosphere created by the usage of different devices in the film. One cinematographic choices made to establish this tone of melancholy is the low-key lighting, which renders the film a dim quality that create negative emotions such as sadness, anxiety, and hopelessness. The poetic usage of language also helps to build this melancholy in narration. For example, Naff says,“It was a hot afternoon, and I can still remember the smell of honeysuckle all along that street. How could I have known that murder can sometimes smell like honeysuckle?” Honeysuckle is a type of flower that carries a strong sweet scent, and how he describes this murder smells like honeysuckle evokes a very strange feeling in me. Even though the story is about ugliness, violence, and cruelty, it still has a bit of sweetness. It is also the depiction of Phyllis, whose charm is derived from her infamy. Another example can be the scene when Phyllis kisses Naff and both of them sit on the sofa without talking to each other. In this long take, Naff says, “So we just sat there, and she started crying softly like the rain on the window…” The words used in this sentence, “crying”, “softly”, “rain” all create a sense of melancholy, and they make us immersed with that scene. Overall, I really like the film and I recommend to watch it.