Femme Fatale & Noir Anti-Hero in Double Indemnity

The 1944 film Double Indemnity is everything that classic film noir could possibly be. It has venetian blinds, hats and coats, pouring rain, and, of course, crime.

Two of the biggest noir elements in Double Indemnity are the femme fatale and anti-hero.

Phyllis embodies the classic femme fatale. She’s seductive, manipulative, and morally ambiguous. Throughout the film, it’s hard to know whether she is to be trusted or not.  From the moment we see Phyllis’s character it is obvious she’s meant to be the femme fatale. In the first glimpse the audience gets, she is undressed. The entire introduction between Phyllis and Walter is sexy and flirtatious. She is both seductive and powerful in the way she speaks to him. The scene perfectly captures her dominance as well as her charm.  Of course, Phyllis is basically the downfall of our protagonist, a frequent plot point in film noir associated with the femme fatale.

Walter is the classic hardened anti-hero led astray by his lust for the female figure. His costuming consists of a long coat and a hat that frequently casts a shadow over his face. He speaks in a quick manner, always wanting to get straight to the point. Walter shows a remarkable verbal wit, illustrated in many noir protagonists. He shows off his street-smarts by gathering information from different sources, like Keyes and Lola. He narrates most of the film, telling his tale of desperation and paranoia, two key themes that dominate noir films. In the end, Walter’s world is full of corruption and crime, and he is too tangled in it to come out.

Double Indemnity is a perfect example of the world of film noir, as well as a great introduction to the genre/style.

-B

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