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The Issue of Hope and Redemption in Film Noir: Living Day-to-Day in the Present, or Living for the Future?

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  1. Introduction
  2. Director Abraham Polonsky's film Force of Evil
  3. The character of Phyllis Dietrichson
  4. Camera focus during Neff and Phyllis' talk on accident insurance
  5. Conclusion
  6. Works consulted

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. [...]


[...] Also, Phyllis's control of the camera in scenes with Neff indicates her seductive power over him, and her immorality ultimately causes her own death and the death of the manipulated male. In the films Out of the Past, Force of Evil, and Double Indemnity, the main characters do exhibit the negative traits common to most noir narratives, as described by Schrader. The three male characters wrestle with issues of morality and for a period in their lives live only in the present, surviving day-by-day with little hope for the future. However, Jeff and Joe differ from Walter and from most noir protagonists, [...]

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