Double Indemnity (1944)

I really enjoyed this story, both in book in film and with different reasons for each. Something about the narrative element in the film was drawing, but not so much as the book. There was a much more personal relationship with Neff throughout. I, like others, got the impression that although a salesman, he was honest and personable, less of a stereotype. One thing that bothered me about the book in relevance to the characters, was the lack of descriptive words for people, places of situations. There was a minimal amount but I felt that (especially in the fist and second meeting of Phillis) the film far better portrayed the lust and development of a relationship between the two. The book also did not emphasize to me that he “did it for a woman”, I barely remember their scenes where they met in person in the book, let alone any sort of reverence to love. In the film I feel this was a little more clearly emphasized, through Phillis’s clothing, Neff’s comments on her looks, anklet, shameless passes at a married woman. These things didnt weaken his character or make him seem cheaper than in the book but it did put more emphasis on a motive for me. In the book the only driving factor for Neff helping her, since even the scene where she claims her husband is cruel is not there, is money. Yet he doesn’t seem to care much about money either. I dont think he knows why he did it, telling himself he had superficial reasons that didn’t pan out, over telling himself he was some sort of a monster, or worse, that he did it to prove that he could do it better than any slimy client of his could.

The murder or the motive wasnt the part of the book I ended up caring much about at all in the end. The relationship with Keyes, developing love of Lola, as the murderer of her father and conclusion of the book was the true grabber for me. The film did leave me with the impression that Neff had started to like Lola but unlike the book, it seemed more like guilt and self preservation. In the book, an awkward relationship began, one that Neff should have known early on was too sick to live with. Since the movie and book were narrative in nature, I think any self analysis of his own potential psychological problems was not even considered. His obsession and full blame were put on Phillis form the beginning, and he saw himself as a foolish pawn/victim. It was him who offered to do the killing, seemingly unmotivated, and like a child who steps on a beetle then realizes what hes done, wiping the guts off his shoe, he realized that fantasy about murder and how easy it can be, and taking a human life, are very different things.

I wasnt too excited about very the ending of either the book or film but everything leading up to the book ending was great. I understand Neff killing himself, even if only for the guilt over the pain he caused Lola, but I couldnt understand why Phillis, a woman who notoriously killed for money and property, would just stop there. No matter where she went, she could always start again as a black widow trophy wife in no time. It’s not as though guilt, after all she’s done, would suddenly make her human. Given the relationship between Keyes and Neff in the book and film, I thought the book ending was more apropriate. Even if Keyes was an upstanding, meticulous, lawful man, he was not naive to the world and all the circumstances that can arise. When he came to a situation where a good friend had done something horrendous and potentially harmful to the company he had worked so hard for, he was not without a reasoning of his own. Like a sheriff whos son steals and wrecks the family car, Keyes helps Neff to the best of his abilities, without risking his own neck. Keyes, admits “I dont often like somebody”, as much affection as Neff will hear in words from a man, who in book in film, is like an emotionally distant but big hearted father. Keyes knew there wasnt much point in prison, a mans guilt is his own prison.

I also really enjoyed this weeks reading, finding out about the stories ties with a true crime and vintage tabloid stylization. I dont and have never read a tabloid bum Im tempted now to find out more about older ones, with signed confessions form murdered and photos taken from cameras on ankles. There seems as much drama and excitement in that kind of work as there are in the stories they write about. The development of the character of Phillis, in tabloid, book and film, whether over dramatized or not, was essential to the the story in all cases. The fact that she wanted her husband murdered and for money, takes away any chance of pitying the woman. In the film, they emphasize how cruel Mr. Nerlinger is to Phillis, but only for a short while. She sees no other way out and Neff as well as the viewed get suckered into believing this as a viable excuse. The pity is soon lost the more money becomes a factor in the plot and Phillis shows everyone involved her true colors.

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