Lighting Form in Classical Hollywood Cinema

Double Indemnity (1944)

Lighting in Double Indemnity acts as a tool which foregrounds the inevitable imprisonment of Walter Neff in the role of the classic Film Noir doomed protagonist. In the first scene of the analepsis Walter Neff retells the story of how he met Phyllis Dietrichson. As Walter looks up the stairs he catches a glimpse of the barely dressed femme fatal Phyllis. This moment of sexual desire seals his fate. As Walter waits for Phyllis to get dressed he waits in the living room. This room produces a brilliant formal feature that indicates Walter Neff’s imprisonment. Light filters through some Venetian blinds. The pattern produced by the blind creates a shadow as if Walter Neff has entered a prison. The dark horizontal lines hits the plain white plaster walls producing an image that conjures up imprisonment and incarceration. The Dietrichson home has been transformed by the use of lighting from a classical Spanish LA house into a prison. Lighting’s function in this scene from Double Indemnity illustrates that Walter Neff is imprisoned by fate into the traditional Film Noir narrative; a narrative which demands the destruction of a protagonist if they collude with the femme fatal character. (photo below is a later scene which shows the fallen Neff marked by lighting to look as if wearing prison issue clothes – while the moral compass of the movie, Barton Keyes, is unmarked by the lighting affect)

Published by

A.R. Duckworth

South Yorkshire England

3 thoughts on “Lighting Form in Classical Hollywood Cinema”

  1. Pingback: film noir
  2. I had never watched Double Indemnity before, but after reading this i was inspired to. Thanks i enjoyed the film. The scene where we see Phyllis walking down her stairs and the camera focuses on the pom-pom shoes was slightly funny in relation to what is now seen as sexy. All in all though an interesting film! cheers.

  3. Pingback: Inspired By Nature

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