1944) Directed by Billy Wilder
MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck
Double Indemnity is a film noir that is quintessentially
about existentialism. The movie starts with the eerie tone of
Neff dictating, introducing the story about to be told. Neff
meets Phyllis, the classic female predator, in a sexually charged
atmosphere. She comes in from sunbathing, and the two begin to
exchange doublespeak--sexual innuendo.
It is in this that we see our first lesson in
existentialism. Neff and Phyllis are unable to be themeselves as
they try to keep their cards close to thier chest, where one tries to
remain a non person and get the other to reveal their true self.
They can't say what they want to say or be who they want to be.
And in Phyllis' case, she has played the non-existential role for
so long that her true self has evaporated. Only the social games
remain and non of the personality.
This seductress reveals how evil she really is by
openly musing how she could get a life insurance policy on her husband
without him knowing it. Neff recognizes this right away and wants
no part in it. However Phyllis goes to his house and seduces him
into killing her husband.
They cary out their plan and Keyes, the
existential hero of the movie, becomes suspicious immediately,
suspecting Phyllis and and unknown accomplice.
Keyes is the existential hero because he is his
true, ugly self. He's settled down on who he is and says what he
wants to say. He conveys a sense of honesty as to who he truly
is. This is demonstrated in one scene where he tries to offer
Neff a desk job. Of course Neff can't commit like Keyes can,
thats his existential flaw.
Neff then learns that Phyllis wants Lola, the
daughter of the victim, killed because she suspected her for the murder
of her parents. Phyllis is also seeing Nino, Lola's boyfriend,
behind Neff's back. Because of these things Neff decides to end
it and blame Phyllis and Nino for the murder.
He enters her apartment and asks if anyone else is
there, then where the music is coming. He shuts the windows while
dropping a metaphor about how when two people kill its like riding a
trolly together. They have to get off together, but he's found
someone to take his place--Nino. Phyllis catches onto the line of
reasoning too fast, and shoots Neff, badly wounding him. He then
walks towards her telling her to shoot again, but she doesnt and he
grabs the gun. She then goes into non person mode again, trying
to deceive, saying that shes never loved him or anyone until just a
minute ago when he told her to fire again. Neff doesnt buy it and
He then confesses and says he's going to Mexico,
which, in my opinion, is metaphorical of the evaporation of his true
self, the self he could have been.
The existential lesson here is that becoming a
person and living a life of meaning is up to the individual, and that
individual may throw it away in double talk, false aires,
self-deception and deceit, or one can hold fast to being themeselves
like Keyes, who never gets in trouble in the movie. This movie
basically shows the horrors of riding the fence of being yourself and a
fake image, and meeting a non person, or game player, that can tip you
on the wrong side of that fence.