Shot by Shot Analysis

Double Indemnity (1944)- 0:47:59 – 0:49:48

This is the scene where Neff prepares before killing Mr. Dietrichson. It is basically a montage of what Neff does prior to the murder.

0:47:59 – 0:48:17

Medium-long shot, straight on, non-diegetic sounds, low-key lighting, relatively short take.

The camera follows Neff throughout the take as he drives into the garage, gets out of his car, asks Charlie for a car wash then goes upstairs. Here he is creating an alibi by telling Charlie he is “staying in tonight.” Dissolve into next shot.

0:48:17 – 0:48:30

Medium shot, straight on, non-diegetic sounds, low-key lighting, relatively short take.

Neff, focused in the middle of the frame, makes a call to his co-worker Lou Schwartz (that there will be a record of) further reinforcing his alibi. Dissolve into next shot.

0:48:30 – 0:48:38

Long shot, straight on, non-diegetic sounds, low-key lighting, short take.

Neff appears in a dark navy blue suit as Mr. Dietrichson will be wearing. The camera follows him slightly as he sits to answer a call from Lou Schwartz. Dissolve into next shot.

0:48:38 – 0:48:43

Medium-close shot, straight on, non-diegetic sounds, low-key lighting, very short take.

Neff puts a hand towel and adhesive into his pockets to further impersonate Mr. Dietrichson and his cast. Dissolve into next shot.

0:48:43 – 0:48:53

Close up, straight on, non-diegetic sounds, low-key lighting, short take.

Neff puts a card in the telephone box as a cautious measure so he would know if someone had called him while he was away. Dissolve into next shot.

0:48:53 – 0:48:57

Close up, straight on, non-diegetic sounds, low-key lighting, very short take.

Neff puts another card in his doorbell for the same reason. Dissolve into next shot.

0:48:57 – 0:49:02

Long shot, low angle, non-diegetic sounds, low-key lighting, very short take.

Neff takes the stairs to avoid people. At the top of the stairs it starts as a long shot but turns into a close up as Neff comes closer to us. Dissolve into next shot.

0:49:02 – 0:49:10

Extreme long shot, straight on, non-diegetic sounds, low-key lighting, short take.

Neff walks to the Dietrichson residence (whilst smoking a cigarette) to avoid people once again. The whole house is in frame and Neff is in the bottom right corner. Quick cut to next shot.

0:49:10 – 0:49:22

Medium shot, straight on, non-diegetic sounds, low-key lighting, relatively short take.

Neff takes his last pull from his cigarette, drops it, then walks towards the garage away from the camera turning it into a long shot. His narration mentions he can smell honeysuckle even more now that it is night. Quick cut to next shot.

0:49:22 – 0:49:48

Long shot, slightly higher angle, non-diegetic sounds, extreme low key lighting, long take.

Neff sneaks into the garage and hides in the back seat of the sedan. Meanwhile he is in too deep, and he is thinking about how he must kill Mr. Dietrichson after the three honks.

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Many aspects in this scene remain virtually, if not exactly, constant throughout. The constant non-diegetic sounds are Neff’s narration and an ominous score with a dark tone. Also, being a film noir, low-key lighting is constantly used. The first time a non-straight on shot is used in this scene is when Neff is at the top of the stairs walking down. This is a low angle shot where we only catch a glimpse of Neff’s face. This first camera placement change is probably significant because it shows Neff actively going out and taking his first steps to commit murder- no more planning or preparing.

Moreover, a first in this scene and a first in the entire film as well, is the suit Neff wears. Throughout the film Neff wears a pretty light gray suit in which much light reflects. In this scene he changes to a dark navy suit, and it is both contrastingly and aesthetically noticeable. Just scroll up and take a look at Neff before and after he changes. This play on colors and dark/light is most likely to physically show that Neff is a different, much darker person than before.

The central pattern here, I believe, is the mention of honeysuckle. This is the second time in the film honeysuckle is mentioned. This is interesting because Neff smells the sweet scented plant only when near the neighborhood of the Dietrichson’s. It is distinct and memorable. What’s even more interesting is that the narration says he could smell it even more because it was nighttime. It’s as if he’s attracted to the distinct scent [of Mrs. Dietrichson] even if most species of the plant are poisonous.

This made a lot of sense to me because Neff was not the generic oblivious man from which his unexpected downfall was the woman. He was aware and had an idea of her motives from the start, and he still let himself get manipulated. He took the risk that maybe this one wasn’t poisonous, or this might be true love after all. Maybe from this the filmmakers are trying to say that beneath the pretty and attracting exteriors (like the smell) lies something much more nasty and ultimately decieving.

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6 Responses to “Shot by Shot Analysis”

  1. Amy Herzog Says:

    Fantastic analysis!!! Very detailed (the stills really help), and your analysis is very convincing– bravo!

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