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Film Studies:Term Paper 2013 - Essay Example

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Femininity and Masculinity in Double Indemnity The femme fatale is one of the key components observed in firm noir. Similar to the genre of film noir, the concept of ‘femme fatale’ does not require strict descriptions. She is an indefinite character who is different for every film…
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Film Studies:Term Paper 2013

Download file to see previous pages... 125). The vague character of the femme fatale guides this scholarly work: she appears to be both a powerful expression of the reality that endangers patriarchy and, on the other hand, she appears to be the fantasy icon of society. However, there are attributes that remain unchanged: a blatant sexuality, an egotistical, self-seeking tendency, and a talent to ensnare and manipulate any man who she encounters define the femme fatale of the 1930s and 1940s (Copjec, 1993). She is consistently alluring, attractive, and sophisticatedly dressed. Caught in the well-known mise-en-scene of sharply distinct shadows or shades in urban scenery, the femme fatale emerges from the pits of these urban shadows that sooner or later engulf her. The intense mise-en-scene that creates the setting for the femme fatale operates to highlight that she is the representation of a ‘bad girl’ (Neroni, 2005, p. 22). In the film Double Indemnity by Billy Wilder, Phyllis Dietrichson, played by Barbara Stanwyck, accurately portrayed this character when she informs Walter Neff: “I never loved you or anyone else. I’m rotten, rotten to the core” (Neroni, 2005, p. 22). One of the major attributes of the femme fatale is her failure to or lack of capacity to sustain an intimate or passionate relationship. This explains why, alongside her violent tendencies, she is displeasing to society. Sylvia Harvey emphasises the role love plays in society as shown in film noir (Kaplan, 1998, p. 37): “And if successful romantic love leads inevitably in the direction of the stable institution of marriage, the point about film noir, by contrast, is that it is structured around the destruction or absence of romantic love and the family.” The destiny of the femme fatale normally entails violence. Obviously, not every femme fatale becomes violent or resorts to violence, but most of them show an ability and an eagerness to act violently. The violence of the femme fatale usually seems to be the only remaining option for her, but she nevertheless commits violence skilfully and without remorse (Armstrong, 2013). However, this is not to say that the violence of the femme fatale is the specific attribute that describes her character and make her treacherous. Violence is merely a consequence of the general character of the femme fatale. In Double Indemnity, for instance, Phyllis Dietrichson lures Walter Neff into aiding her in an insurance fraud wherein he murders her husband, and they divide the cash they got from the husband’s insurance. Basically, she deceives, manipulates, swindles, shows off her body to Walter, and often behaves sexually and seductively, all with the intention of getting what she desires—money (Allyn, 1978). The filmmaker memorably brings in the character of Phyllis wearing only a towel. When she comes back after putting her clothes on, the camera focuses on her legs as she descends the stairs and afterwards focuses on her again as she closes her dress and applies her lipstick while in front of a mirror. The conversation in this scene also highlights her appearance as she asks if her “face is on straight” (Neroni, 2005, p. 23), obliging Walter and the audience to gaze again at her face before the story carries on. Such gestures are shrewdly made by a woman who is very conscious and knowledgeable of society’s view of women and femininity. Phyllis takes advantage of social attributes of femininity to persuade Walter to help her carry out her plans. In the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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