A Comparison between Double Indemnity (1944) and Neon Demon (2016): Review of Noir Films

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The entertainment and film industries are some of the major channels for disseminating knowledge on numerous topics, creating an ideal learning environment for all generations. Themes evolve over time to reflect societal challenges of the day or production-related technical advancements. Through the subjects, the audience can learn lessons about moral and ethical conduct, spiritual ideas, economic, technological, social, as well as political aspects—all of which are crucial for the growth and development of the present generation as well as upcoming ones. Film Noir entail the discussions around crime and associated horrors through use of the shadowy feature at some point to generate the feeling of horror. Over the years, there have been changes in the approach towards the production of the movies and the choice between using live characters, as well as graphical enhancements which affect the audiences and the daily social, political, and economic development in the entire world.

In this respect, the following paper aims at developing an analysis based on research regarding the differences between the classical noir films and the later/current noir films. The article will include a brief explanation of the film noir concept as well as the overall character, plot, and theme choices with the aim of fully understanding the fundamental changes and the reasons behind them between the two film noir eras. To ensure that evidence-based information, reports, and conclusions are presented, the paper will compare two films that include Double Indemnity (1944) and Neon Demon (2016). The prior will represent the classical noir films while the latter will represent the later or current noir films in the overall analysis and comparison in the entire paper. The paper will also include a vivid evolution of themes from the 1940s to the present period as portrayed by the films and then provide a review of the thematic developments in the noir films within 70 years. Additionally, the paper will include discussions on all the vital and critical issues surrounding the film noir concept to guarantee a full understanding of the developments and changes within the 70-year period.

Summary of the Films

Double Indemnity (1944)

Double indemnity is one of the top classical noir film referred by the viewers as one of the best film noirs in the 40's. The film is an explicit representation of the Hollywood family especially in the dark time after the World War II and specifically the period between 1940's to 1950's. The movie is directed by Wilder and based on a novel by Wilder and Chandler. Double indemnity entails an urban crime syndicate which is told in a flashback of the main male character (Neff) and the relationship with an evil woman who seduces him (Johnstone 100). The use of the dark shadows and retelling of the story reveals how each person’s fate is predetermined (Elsaesser 120). The use of the lighting further enhances the performances on the stage to bring out both the old ages and the modern setting through which the dramatic series of crimes occur in a love triangle and insurance investigations.

The betrayal, fatality, fake promises, as well as lies presented in the film makes it a proper arena for teaching and learning various life aspects. Also, it enhances understanding situations not only in the past but also the current and future worlds. On the other hand, there are various other areas where the film displayed old age eras such as the lighting aspects, the plot, and setting, as well as the character choice. However, the occurrence is highly associated with the intention of the filmmakers and the directors to ensure that the particular themes are fully understood and taken into account by the viewers (The Article). Therefore, when the ending of the film finally arrives, and the principal male character falls into the hands of the female counterpart in a situation defined as a femme fatal, the viewers had already taken all the lessons regarding the key themes in the film (Dimendberg 207). Double indemnity remains one of the key classical noir films fundamental in the overall enhancement of the movie noir development from the 1940s to the current period.

Neon Demon (2016)

The film Noir is a modern fairy tale in a scary Los Angeles where as young as 16, a young girl discovers she has everything that other designers and models want (Kermode). As a result, she engages in a series of criminal activities using her social power as a way to escape the consequences. In this regard, the film brings out the horror in the beauty industry through the actions of the female gender as beasts and witches (Kermode). The lighting and musicals in the movie bring out the fierceness of the evilness. For example, when the film starts, the electric blue dress and beauty of Fanning are contrasted by the blood on her skin which introduces the viewer to the glorification of crime in beauty.

The movie is one of the top current fiction, horror, and thrilling oriented presentation aspects that make the film a suitable neo-noir film example that enhances the analysis and discussion of the video noir thematic evolution from the classic to the current ages of the genre. The director of the movie uses the fashion industry as a critical social and technological buffer to pass positive and necessary messages and information regarding sexuality, gender superiority, modernization, beneficial violence, as well as individual traits as the key themes (Haskell 40). The overall visual and thematic presentation and organization in the entire movie portrays a modernized society with individuals who have different and important talents in life as the director relates alien, future, and current worlds within a single perspective of life, fashion show (Kermode). The use of colors, plot setting, character choice as well as lighting entail modern technology application to give the film the top best neo-noir film to the present. Additionally, use of shadows and characters as iconic items both in the movie and real world is applied to ensure the video delivers necessary information regarding sexuality, personal identification, and heroism, persuasion, and alienation themes as all other noir films target.


One of the similarities between the two films is the use of the female gender as a source of social power and the evils associated with the same. In double indemnity, Neff who is the male character falls in love with an evil woman who uses her charms to control and manipulate him into committing crimes in Los Angeles (The Article). However, after completing the tasks, there is a lot of distrust between the main characters leading to a number of tragic events where the fate of each is predetermined and told in a flashback. On the other hand, the neon demon also uses the woman as the central power in the society. In the video, the young girl wants to move out of the timid teenager into a fashion icon with the authorities and strength that individuals tell that she possesses (Kermode). In the same length, she ends up committing a number of crimes. Also, both films try to talk about the need for moving towards modernity through depicting the deteriorating state of different parts and the need to repair them (Dimendberg 169). The film achieves this through showing the intended beauty and some of the social evils that put a barrier towards achieving them. Lastly, in both movies, there is an underlying theme of portraying the emerging strength of the female gender in the society today. Some of the crimes committed try to depict how they work to correct the imbalance through using their feminine body to seduce and manipulate men into falling under their spell and control in the society.


Firstly, there is a variation in the plot of the two films. In the movie about double indemnity among other early 40s and 50s noir movies, there was only one way of telling a villain story with dark shadowed cinematographic to tell how crimes in urban centers happen. However, most of the renaissance in the noir videos today include more variations such psychopath behavior (Durgnat 49), as well as a depiction of crime as social criticism (Durgnat 39). In this regard, the lighting and characters on stage present more evils that enhance both fiction and reality as an insensitive way of generating horror. For example, in the Neon demon, most of the characters show the obsession with gaining power, and such individual engages in crimes both in dreams and their actions in reality (Kermode).

In some instances, the incorporation of technology in lighting, use of bright colors unlike the dark ones in double indemnity, as well as the creation of science fiction brings out these aspects. Lastly, there are significant differences between the films in the way they bring out the concept of the space of modernity (Dimendberg 172). In double indemnity, showing old railroads and use of speeding to contrast the slow nature of repair works outside the car show the need for the society to move aggressively towards a modern city (Krutnik 85). However, in the Neon Demon, most of the approaches towards modernization include the change in perception of the people and the role of technology in driving social and infrastructural change today. For example, unlike before when completion of school was essential, Fanning the lead character in neon demon convinces her parents to go ahead to Los Angeles and pursue her talent in fashion rather than complete her studies (Kermode). The use of the cinematography and bright colors also change the change in perception that some other analysts interpreted as contributing to racism between the white and black races (Murphet 23).

Development of Themes across the 70 Years

There is no definite definition of the noir films due to its complexity in critical issues such as themes, characters, and overall presentation in the film industry as well as the multiplicity of the genre as it can be a motif, a style, or a genre (Place and Peterson 66). Regardless of the complexity of the film genre, various researchers agree that the key critical aspects in the definition are the message, the overall spirit of the particular film noir movies, as well as what exactly lingers in the audience's mind/brains as they view the film. Film noir as coined by the French means black film and the term originated from the French filmmakers especially after the World War II and directed explicitly to the Americans. The common themes for the noir films include; feminine betrayal primarily in the form of another individual, alienation, moral ambiguity, sexual thrills, the fate of an individual and how it is impossible to escape it, gender superiority and violence (Haskell 39). The movies and films produced by the Hollywood in the year between 1940 and 1960 an age of film noir regarded as classic film noir were filled with horror videos that aimed at showing how war and social absurdities created problems to the human race with no consideration to the gender. In understanding the evolution of film noir within 70 years, it is important to understand the two key ages of film noir starting from 1940.

Themes in the Key Film Noir Ages

Topics in the Classical Film Noir Era

According to the definition and emergence of the new genre of film coined as noir, the year 1940 to 1960 contains all movies and movies that include all core and ideal themes and settings that fit into noir movies classified as classical film noir. Violence characterizes the classical film noir age and social disorientation in humans that filmmakers in the era targeted to bring to light. However, the entire period produced noir movies and films in black and white and included old age settings and plots that indicate the low-level of technological development and growth. Color is an important aspect of filmmaking as it enhances the understanding of the particular theme that the film aims at delivering and teaching to the audience. Therefore, with only two colors (black and white) in all the top noir movies and films in the age, there were discrepancies as well as confusion regarding the exact message that the film aimed at communicating to the people. Some people related the use of the two colors to allude to the racism between the white and the black either knowingly or unknowingly (Murphet 23). In some instances, the differences indicate the nature of violence between the two races, especially during the world wars. However, towards the 60s, most of the audience in the theatres showcasing noir films reduced significantly almost bringing an end to the monotony of the same plot of violence, as well as racial and gender discrimination.

The classic film noir period also can be identified or associated with various political oriented aspects as they were the key issues in the era not only in one part of the world but the world as a whole. Therefore, many of the key noir movies in the age contained messages regarding the effects and consequences of war to the social unity and integration hence the violence and gender disparity themes in the double indemnity film (Johnstone 103). Additionally, it is important to note that although the classical age is mostly associated with films from the Hollywood that forms a large percentage of Americans, all other filmmakers, mainly from France and Britain, endorsed the casts and the entire film production for the noir genre. Therefore, this indicates a sense of similarity in the thematic development within the age. Thus, although the classic film noir period is always discussed and presented as old age as truly as it is, it is still important in the contemporary society especially on the thematic perspective as the themes presented or targeted by the noir movies and films in the age is about human beings.

Topics in the Neo-Noir Age

The neo-noir age is between the years 1970 to the current era. The period saw extreme changes in the noir films production and publication in many various ways as compared to the preceding age. As we identified earlier that there are common themes that help in determining noir movies and films, the idea that noir movies in the neo-noir age are directed, cast, and plotted is different although the changes do not make them less or more noir movies or films. The neo-noir period saw impressive improvements by the film directors and producers regarding critical thinking and idea presentation all of which is associated with the positive technological developments and innovations witnessed in the age. As the society develops alongside technology, human beings develop and grow in different ways hence the changes observed in the neo-noir films such as neon demon. Although the movies are similar in the thematic perspective with their counterparts in the classical noir age, the way women and men, the acts of war, sexuality, and violence aspects are presented indicate a modernizing world (Haskell 41). The noir filmmakers and directors in the age use technology and modern-day settings to communicate hence making the noir films more fun to watch as well as understand. However, it cannot go unnoticed how acts of violence in the neo-noir films are presented horrifically as compared to the thrilling manner in the classical age as to ensure that the noir films maintain their identity but this time around present the ideas in a fun and comfortable way to watch for all ages. For example, the film neon demon shows the sexuality, alienation, as well as violence by the use of a single character (Ella) who in some scenes uses jokes and fun actions to ensure that the viewer remains entertained and still understands the core message of the particular film (Kermode). Additionally, classical noir films are plain and direct to the point as compared to the neo-noir films that include modern film-making techniques to make the story enjoyable because the variations show developments and evolution steps of the noir films between the ages. Therefore, the reports and discussions from such scholars can be suitable for the explanation and comparison of various developments especially in the thematic aspects of the noir films between the ages.


In summary, the movie genre of noir has undergone two groups of ages which have some underlying similarities as well as differences because of changes in social perceptions and technological development. The periods include the classical and neo-age noirs. The films Double Indemnity (1944) and the Neon Demon (2016) are examples of the classical and neo-noir era films. In their comparison, themes such as criminal behavior and gender discrimination are consistent. However, the cinematography and production through recent technology have changed the traditional black and white colors to bright ones. Also, there are new themes such as violence, sociopath behavior, and middle-class murder as a political tool (Durgnat 45). Lastly, the two videos lay a foundation for the development of themes over the 70 year period such as racism, crimes, gender discrimination, and equality, as well as the drama of sexuality issues.

Works Cited

Dimendberg, “Chapter 4 Centrifugal Space: Film Noir and the Spaces of Modernity. Pp. 166-206

Dimendberg, “Chapter 5 Simultaneity, the Media Environment, and the End of Film Noir: Film Noir and the Spaces of Modernity. Pp. 207-306

Durgnat, “Paint it Black: The Family Tree of the Film Noir.” Film Noir Reader. 1970, pp. 37-59

Elsaesser, “Chapter 5: Cinema as Skin and Touch.” Pp. 109-128

Haskell, Molly. “Agents Provocateurs: Isabelle Huppert and Paul Verhoeven Dive Back into the Deep End of Coy Perversity in Elle." Film Comment. 2016, pp. 38-42

Johnstone, Claire. “Double Indemnity.” Women in Film Noir. Ed. E AM Kaplan. London: BFI. 1980, pp. 100-110

Kermode, Mark. “The Neon Demon Review-Beauty as the Beast.” 2016. Web.

Krutnik, Frank. “Chapter 4: Something More Than Night, Tales of the Noir City.” pp. 83-99

Murphet, Julian. “Film Noir and the Racial Unconscious.” 2014, pp. 22-35

Place, Janey. And Peterson, Lowell. “Some Visual Motifs of Film Noir.” Film Noir Reader1974, pp. 65-74

The Article, “Double Indemnity: an In-Depth Look At A Film Noir Classic.” Web.

April 06, 2023

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