Scene Analysis 1: Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, Paramount, 1944)3

 25 Shots. Dietrichson’s House, where Walter and Phyllis first meet.

  • MLS, two shot: Walter Neff knocks on door; house attendant answers door. She tries to dismiss him but he insistenly goes through. Non diegietic music coming from the background.
  • MS: Low key light; Walter continues to ask the maid for Mr.Dietrichson, but then looks up when he hears a questioning voice from upstaris.
  • MCU: Walter and maid looking up towards the staircase, Phyllis emerging from the top staircase in a white towel.
  • MCU: Walter answering to Phyllis, introduces himself to her.
  • MLS: Phyllis enters more into the frame under a glowing light that illuminates her.
  • MCU: Walter smiles at Phyllis, laughs nervously, is automatically attracted to her.
  • MCU: Phyllis, aware that she is still in a towel excuses herself so she can dress, exiting back into the darkness.
  • MLS: Maid makes a comical comment about locked up liquor as she directs him to the living room. Pans to walter walking towards the living room.
  • LS: Walter walking into the living room, low key light, shadows cast off from the blinds in the room, pans to him approaching desk.
    Reverse MS: photo frames of Mr. Dietrichson and his daughter Lola; VO of Walter.
  • LS: straight on; Walter feeds the gold fish, VO of walter’s thoughts on Phyllis, walks under light as he looks up staircase.
  • CU: Phyllis shoes descending the stairs, pulls back on Phyllis as she finishes buttoning up her blouse, pans to her approaching a mirror, high key light is on her, Walter is seen in the reflection then enters the frame from the back right side. As he conversates with her she turns around and addresses him about the insurance he is selling. Non diegetic music stops. 
  • MLS: Low key light, Phyllis enters right of the frame and sits down on chair, followed by Walter who sits on an armchair opposite her. Key light on Phyllis. As Walter discusses the insurance to Phyllis, she gets up from the chair and camera pans as she paces back and forth, she is illuminated under the key light and her dark shadow becomes much larger, emphasizing her dark nature as she plots something terrible.
  • MS: Walter notifies phyllis of his experience on his insurance company, looking pleased of her interest in him.
  • MS: Pans on Phyllils as she sits back on her chair, continues to ask Walter about the insurance policies.
  • MCU: Walter interested on her ankle bracelet, learns her first name.
  • MLS: low key light. Walter and Phyllis sitting across from each other. Phyllis rises from her chair as camera pans and followes her while Walter follows, he turns opposite and faces phyllis, begins to flirt with her.
  • MCU:  Phyllis facing Walter, high key light on her. Back and forth shots between Phyllis and
  • MCU: two shot; Walter continues to flirt
  • MCU: High key light on Phyllis, flirting is called off once Phyllis mentions her husband.
  • MS: Walter and Phyllis both in frame, but pans as walter turns to pick up his hat and briefcase by the mirror, low key light, then walks back to exist as phyllis returns back in frame to walk him out. When walter finally exists, Phyllis is still in frame under shadow as door closes shut. 

This scene illustrates the dynamic relationship between Walter and Phyllis. The introduction of Phyllis clearly demonstrates her role in the film, as she enters with a towel suggessting her sex appeal like a temptress. However, she is seen all in white, signifying purity, which fools Walter throughout the film, believing she is a “dame” that seeks refuge from an unwanted husband. All of the dark shadows in the house creates a dark, threatening atmosphere. With only the minimal light from the blinds, there seems to be no way out of the darkness and danger that lays ahead. In fact the only light that is shown is whenever Phyllis is in frame, and her clothing all in white giving her an illuminous glow, shows that even light can be dangerous falsification.

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