The films Out of the Past, Force of Evil, and Double Indemnity are narratives that contain similar noir themes. All three narratives follow troubled male characters who must sever ties with their pasts in order to move forward to a hopeful and happy future. Two of these characters succeed, morally, and one fails. This essay will explore noir techniques in these three films and will postulate why the two characters are redeemed while the third character remains ruined.
[...] She paces back and forth in front of the fireplace as the camera follows her, and she seems to be contemplating something and only partly listening to Neff. She then asks Neff about accident insurance, which suggests that she has been thinking of the topic all through Neff's monologue. When Neff visits Phyllis a second time, we are shown her ankles again—we see her ankles hurrying down the staircase as before, only in this scene she wears spiked black heels and a black skirt. [...]
[...] This suggests that Joe's priorities are not clear to himself in that he wants to make his brother happy and successful, and he wants happiness and success for himself, but all of these desires cannot be realized if he continues with the numbers scheme. The following dialogue from Doris depicts Joe as the noir protagonist who is stuck in a lifestyle of surviving day-by-day: Joe, I don't want this money. Nobody wants it. I want to somehow get to you, Joe, to save you from yourself and myself. [...]
[...] Jeff and Kathie kiss after the dialogue exchange, and both of their faces are cast in shadow, which seems to hint at and put into motion Jeff's impending doom. Jeff's passion for the past is first apparent when he relates his seedy history to Ann during their car ride. In the scene it is nighttime and both Ann's and Jeff's faces are heavily shadowed, which suggests both characters are deliberating internally on the sordid information Jeff is revealing. Jeff's face remains stoic, so he shows no emotion, yet his seriousness reveals his passion. [...]
[...] In director Abraham Polonsky's film Force of Evil (1948), the crooked lawyer Joe exhibits some of the noir protagonist traits outlined by Schrader. Joe definitely fears the future. More specifically, Joe fears the unhappiness and poverty that his future may bring. This is why Joe is so concerned with “making my first million,” as he states in the opening voice- over. Joe also fears for his brother Leo's happiness in the future. Joe's passion for the past and present is also evident from the manner in which he speaks to Tucker. [...]
[...] Phyllis is in camera focus—she is practically sitting in Neff's lap—shot close-up, and she is looking intently at Neff, who is just left of the camera and out of focus. The high-key lighting on Phyllis's face enhances the ostensible sincerity in her look and dialogue so that her question don't you think [my husband] ought to have accident insurance” sounds heartfelt. But the experienced and pessimistic Neff sees through Phyllis's phony charade and confronts her. In their ensuing argument, Neff is mostly in camera focus while Phyllis speaks off screen, until she says, think you're rotten.” At this point in the scene, Phyllis regains camera control for an instant. [...]
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