In our tour of film noir last week, the movie Double Indemnity showed us a new side to cool— darkness. Darkness of course is the overriding theme of all noir movies, but I’m not sure how “cool” it actually is. Darkness seems to imply a lot of typically “uncool” ideas such as crime, lies, and shadowy pasts. And that’s exactly how all of the characters in Double Indemnity were too. There were a couple of movies that came to mind while we were watching it last week, and the characters in those movies followed those same ideas of darkness.
The first movie that Double Indemnity reminded me of was a remake of a Hitchcock’s film Dial M for Murder which I’ve never seen all the way through, but seems to have a very noir tone. The remake came out about ten years ago, and it’s called A Perfect Murder. In this movie everyone is always backstabbing someone else, much as the Neff and Phyllis were. In A Perfect Murder, Gwyneth Paltrow’s character is having an affair with an artist played by Viggo Mortensen. Of course the two secret lovers want to be able to live together in peace though, so rather than a divorce they plan to kill her husband. The plot can’t be that simple though because the husband is greedy fellow worth millions who suspects his wife’s plan and wants to kill her and her lover in return. As you can see, in this movie no one is innocent, no one is trying to do what’s right, and in my opinion, no one is cool. What’s cool about movies such as this are the intricate plots people actually construct to meet their needs— the plots are evil and wrong, but they require so much work and attention to detail that you can’t help but admire them. Much like Keyes in Double Indemnity, the only cool part to either movie was the competency showed by certain characters when it came to getting a job done.
A pretty recent gangster movie called A History of Violence was the other movie Double Indemnity reminded me of. In my opinion, A History of Violence is a pretty good example of film noir in a lot of ways. Although the film is in color, it is still very dark because there is nothing bright, shiny, or happy about the way the colors were shot. It always seems cloudy and gloomy in this small Indiana town it’s set in. Another aspect of noir this film depicts is the idea that no one is ever who they seem to be. The main character, Tom Stall, also played by Viggo Mortensen, is anything but the easy-going restaurant owner his family thinks he is. He actually fled a life of crime and violence in Philadelphia to assume a new identity, but he didn’t even share his past with his wife and kids. So when he kills the men who try to rob his café and becomes a national hero, he also says goodbye to his new life when the mob comes to find the man he used to be. This movie is full of the darkness we saw with characters in Double Indemnity because once the truth comes out, Tom’s family falls apart, and murder becomes the center of his life. So much like his dark counterparts in Double Indemnity, Tom Stall’s life is ruined and many around him died because of the supposed coolness surrounding his dark lifestyle.