The Seven Deadly Sins
Introduction To Film Studies- HUM/150
The 1944 film “Double Indemnity” is about an insurance salesman, Walter Neff, who gets entangled in a plot to kill an unhappy wife’s husband, Phyllis Dietrichson, over greed. They work together to stage a suicide that should later be determined accidental. Little does the salesman know the wife will get what she wants, no matter the cost. This paper will dissect the movie to help illuminate underlying themes and how the seven deadly sins are portrayed. It will also compare and contrast the two main characters, Walter Neff and Phyllis Dietrichson, while exposing any motifs shown.
Lust appears to be the most flamboyant theme throughout the film. The most basic and familiar definition of lust is a strong desire for something. In this film, Walter has a strong desire for Phyllis, which can easily be identified in the first scene they are introduced. Walter makes his attraction to Phyllis evident and once she notices, a game of cat and mouse ensues. Further into the film it can be concluded that the two decide to act upon the aphrodisiac. The director helps paint the picture with subtle cut-scenes of redressing and fixing of their appearance. With the drastic gap in decades of filmmaking, the vulgar scenes that you find in today’s movies were in no way acceptable for a full screen theater production at the time. Afterwards, Phyllis was able to use the desire Walter had for her at her advantage.
Perhaps one of Phyllis’ strongest sins would be wrath. Her entire demeanor suggests submissions of anger towards every character close to her throughout the film’s entirety. Her wrath drove her to commit the murder of her husband’s first wife. The anger seems to be outsourced since a clear explanation was never provided, perhaps left to interpretation. The only mention of a legitimate source of protest would be her husband’s lack of motivation for their marriage. At few points her stepdaughter, Lola, also displays wrath. While her intent is nowhere near as malicious, it is clearly brought to her father’s attention in regards to her boyfriend.
Third, is the sin of sloth. Sloth is a double-edged sword in this case. On one hand, it can either show that Phyllis is too concerned with her personal gain to pay any attention heed to the plan Walter meticulously fabricated. On the other it could play to the part of Barton Keyes, Walter Neff’s fellow employee. With his vast knowledge and over bearing will to follow a strong “hunch”, Barton thought nothing out of the ordinary when the case was brought to his attention. Would he have given the evidence a second thought, the plot between Walter and Phyllis might have been thwarted the very moment accusations began at the workplace. Phyllis also, rather than working, sought out a way to not only make money, but double it without having to split her beneficiary entitlement.
Pride is another sin that multiple characters displayed. From Phyllis swelling with joy at the fact that her murderous plot would end with a payout, to Lola’s boyfriend immediately correcting Walter on his name. Prideful moments were in robust amount between these cast members. Pride was the foundation to one of the motifs, the lies. Toward the end of the movie you are able to see that Neff starts to feel guilty about killing Lola’s father, he tried to comfort her and spend time with her, even if it was to figure out what all she knows.
The fifth sin is envy. Phyllis wanted to be married to the man that was already in a marriage, so she envied his first wife. Phyllis also envied Lola; she didn’t think that a child should get all of the money when she was the loving wife that took care of him.
The next sin is gluttony. Phyllis was guilty of this and it was openly discussed when her husband brought up her spending habits on clothing and hats. Neff and Phyllis also show gluttony together with their smoking habits, which is another motif in the film. Both have this “gotta have” attitude toward the things they want and over use.
Lastly, is the sin of greed, which is also the main theme of the movie. Both main characters want money. It is obvious that the main theme would have something to do with money, hence the meaning of “double indemnity”. The whole plot and events occurred because of one woman’s greed that ended up blinding another person to fall into her trap. We will never know if either one of them truly did love each other.
In conclusion, it is clear to see that the two main characters are both different but alike in so many ways. The film consists of all seven deadly sins, weather that was the producer’s intention or not. The motifs present play a critical part in the film, and show what kind of character each person posses. Overall, the film is not your basic love story and ends with a breathtaking twist.
Deadly Sins. (2014). The Seven Deadly Sins revealed. Retrieved from http://www.deadlysins.com/sins/
DeSylva, B. (Producer), & Wilder, B. (Director). (1944). Double Indemnity [Motion picture]. United States: Paramount Pictures.