Double Indemnity and Story Telling

September 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

The narrative style of double indemnity is perhaps best thought of as a case of memory loss. You witness a man stumble into his office and you are sure he is under distress from the way he drove and the way he is acting as he breaks into one of the offices. This “set-up” for the film put you the viewer on the same page as the character Fred MacMurray is addressing in the dictation machine. You are being let in on the same story as its coming from the horses mouth. You become drawn into this story because you know that its ending has somehow driven this man to these dire actions and now you mush “pass judgemet” as he confesses to you.

This form of story telling is still used today in Hollywood to introduce us to a film and draw us in from the start. The other classical noir tool used in this movie is the voice over narration. Before watching “Double Indemnity” I had always believed these voice overs were used to cover weakness and ambiguity in the films emotion and message but… In this film the voice over adds to the “confession” feel of the movie. You can hear the panic and regret in the main characters voice and you can tell that he is sorrowful for choosing the path he did. Humphrey Bogart comes to mind when I hear voice over narrative and it always makes me think of those cheesy beginning shots where he is talking nonsenses about some element of the fade-in scene. Something like “It was raining that day. Not hard, but the kind of rain that reminded you of your first ballgame in Seattle. The kind of rain that made your shirt stick to your back.” I HATE this type of narration but Billy Wilder seems to know where to add the subtle touch of narrative without overpowering you with words and silly remembrances that not many can relate to anyway.


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