Double Indemnity: A Conspiracy With Motives

2716 words - 11 pages

In Billy Wilder’s 1944 blockbuster hit Double Indemnity, a fast-talking insurance salesman named Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) visits the home of the seductive Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) to renew the insurance policy on her husband’s automobiles. A romantic affair shortly ensues, and Walter is soon coerced by Phyllis into plotting a murder. Walter then comes up with an idea to receive double the amount Phyllis had previously intended, and they eventually deceive Mr. Dietrichson (Tom Powers) by making him sign a double indemnity insurance policy which in return states that the widow will receive full compensation on behalf of the bearer’s death. Mr. Dietrichson’s death is then made to look accidental; however, all does not go according to plan when Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), a diligent insurance investigator conducts an examination of the case file. It is a tale of love and betrayal where Walter and Phyllis inevitably face the repercussions of their actions. The story transitions from the present to the past with the use of flashbacks. The voice of Walter Neff is used as a narrative style in the form of an office memorandum which is integrated throughout the film. The movie opens and ends with Walter as he tells the story of killing a man to Keyes through the Dictaphone. Billy Wilder uses money, a woman and the ability to cheat the system to denote Walter Neff’s motives to commit the perfect crime.
After enduring a mortal wound, Walter drives to the Pacific All-Risk insurance agency and is escorted upstairs by the doorkeeper. Walter staggers to his office, lights up a cigarette and begins to relay a message to Keyes. He professes a murderous conspiracy while clutching the dictaphone: “I killed Dietrichson, me Walter Neff insurance salesman---thirty-five years old, unmarried---no visible scars until a while ago that is” (Double Indemnity). He reaches for another cigarette but instead of smoking it he only touches it to his lips; then he throws it away and continues his testimony: “Yes, I killed him…. I killed him for money---and a woman---and I didn't get the money and I didn't get the woman…. Pretty, isn't it?” (Double Indemnity). He then incites a flashback by saying, “It all began around May, around the end of May it was” (Double Indemnity). In turn, this statement catapults the storyline. Walter’s testimony implies that he played a key role in the murder of Mr. Dietrichson. He did it for the money and a woman, but he did not end up with any of these incentives at the culmination of the story. Ironically, the whole scenario is not pretty at all because it ends in heartbreak and death. Money is a powerful tool of persuasion especially when it is a substantial amount.
The notion of a large fortune on behalf of an accident insurance policy is one of the temptations that propels Walter to commit murder. Phyllis had previously intended on collecting a fifty thousand dollar policy according to...

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