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Two Film Reviews: Double Indemnity, The Sea Inside

Double Indemnity (1944) – Billy Wilder

Double Indemnity is a movie directed by Billy Wilder, which was released in 1944. It is based on the James Cane’s novel of the same name which. Both works were named after the term ‘double indemnity’, which refers to doubled insurance payouts in case when death occurred in some unusual circumstances. The paradox that keeps the movie going is what the two main characters think about each other. They support the plot of an intended murder through tough talk and their cold sex roles. However, they never show a liking to each other and for the money they intended to rob off an innocent party. The question remains as to what they are after. Walter Ness plays the role of an insurance salesman who is successful but bored with his work. The other character is Phyllis. She depicts the traits of lazy blond who met her current husband, according to her stepdaughter, while being a nurse of his dying wife. The two meet when Walter visits Phyllis’ home to renew the automobile insurance. He finds out that the husband has already left and only gets to meet Phyllis, who is standing on the staircase wrapped in a towel. His thoughts take him away as he dreams of her. This is the beginning of the film which poses a difficult question of whether challenges in life and lust for what one cannot have should lead people to committing crimes and immoral acts.

The beginning of the story touches on some of the matrimonial challenges the married couples can go through. The respect for marriage has remained a controversial issue considering the fact that people are free to choose with whom they wish to spend their life. In the movie, one can see Phyllis marrying a man after the death of his wife. The motivation for such a union can be attributed to financial stability as the new husband was a wealthy man. He had an insurance cover for his deceased wife and has the same insurance himself. Further, he owns a posh home and vehicle that make him a man of a high class. Marrying someone because of his or her money has significantly affected the marriage institutions both in the past and present. People formed unions to satisfy family pride or secure family investments. Although, in some instances, such marriages are well-organized and with the consent of the parties, most of them end up because of infidelity, which is the root problem. Marriages need to be recognized regardless the reasons for unification the couples have.

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When the two meet in person, Phyllis informs Walter that she wants him to sell her husband’s $50,000 double indemnity policy. The surprising part also involves her convincing the salesman to arrange her husband’s “accidental” death. Walter agrees to do that. Apparently, he had been influenced by sexual appeals and seduction spells. Their plan comes into play through a brilliant performance of substitution. Phyllis drives her husband, who has a broken leg and walks on crutches, to the train station when Walter, who has been hiding in the backseat, chokes him to death. Taking his place, Neff gets on the train and jumps off. They end up leaving the husband’s body on the train tracks. 

The storyline depicts some of the misdeed people in society may commit when they are idle and bored with life. The lady had all she had dreamt about but she still felt lonely and sad in her marriage. Her influence over Walter shows how much people may do to achieve what they want. Firstly, Phyllis uses her whims to impact on a public officer who has the fiduciary duty of protecting the company’s clients’ double indemnity insurance policies. Her sexuality proves to be a tool that most women have used in the past and presently to make people perform hat they want. Such approaches have proven tough for the male counterparts to resist as they are promised sexual favors for their services. Secondly, Walter uses the powers of his position to facilitate a crime. One can assume that he knows the loopholes involved in insurance and as such he is sure to alter the documents for Phyllis. This shows how officers in their respective areas can abuse their powers for their personal use or due to influence of a third party. The outcome of the death of Phyllis’ husband further proves how cruel is the society towards those who are against the selfish interest of others. Walter and Phyllis felt threatened by the presence of the husband, who was a hindrance to what they intended to take. Presently, the society has a capitalistic approach towards creating wealth and in the corporate world, only the fittest survive. As such, people tend to take very bold measures to ensure that they acquire what they want. For example, one can see hostile takeovers of family business either through legal or illegal means. Wives, husbands and children can also resort to killing their family members to acquire all wealth the latter had.

The two, Walter and Phyllis, are intoxicated with their personal desires. They watch movies, listen to radio programs, and read detective magazines to acquire the skills to commit crimes. It is as if they were invented by Ben Hecht through his crime dialogue. Walter and Phyllis did not have the expertise to commit such a clever crime. That is why they had to learn the atrocity from other secondary sources. In the society, many literature materials provide detailed guidelines on how to commit certain crimes and how to get away with them. From the time immemorial, numerous movies and programs that offer such lessons are showed on TV. Radio shows with the best thriller topics get a significant following, and so are the magazines that give such storylines. For example, currently, the television series named “How to Get Away with Murder” is being aired. Such programs offer lessons on how to commit murder without the tiniest chance of being arrested, or if arrested, one can maneuver or even manipulate the law to favor his/her position. The society needs to filter such programs and readings to avoid such outcomes. Innocent people face the danger of being killed while even risking to be accused of the crimes they never committed. 

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In the other part of the film, one sees Neff’s feelings towards his co-worker Keyes and his fears of being caught. Keyes remains a righteous officer although he still faces loopholes in his case investigations concerning the death of Phyllis’ husband. His success to determine the plot of the murder is based on the several procedures he puts in place to prove to Neff that he is aware that the latter was involved in the crime. Although this remains in his subconscious, Keyes is unable to face the truth of whether his suspicions are true or false. This part indicates some of the important steps people in their profession do to achieve positive results. Keyes is a representation of how law enforcements institutions in the past and present consider bringing the perpetrators of criminal activities to justice. The approaches taken by investigating officer also show why certain acts should be punished. In the society, the police are mandated to contribute towards morality and peace by ensuring that people adhere to the set morals and the rule of law. The investigations are carried out to bring all perpetrators to justice as they have gone against the norms of the society. Further, this part depicts the appropriate moral and professional values to which people should adhere while working in their specific fields and offices. For example, a police officer is expected to comply with the codes of ethics of law enforcers. The same can be said about an insurance officer who is mandated with selling policies. Although the society comprised people with different characters and values, the most basic obligations need to be followed at all times. 

The movie touches on some of the misdeed people commit in the society. As observed in the film, one can be hurt even by close family members or people he/she trusts. Phyllis, being a wife, was expected to protect the interests of her husband, but her lust for money made her conspire with Neff to kill the husband in order to benefit from the insurance policy. Further, the story touches on the responsibilities of other people in the public who are mandated with the duty to ensure that misdeed committed do not remain unpunished. As such one can understand the role of each character in the movie comparing them to real people in real-life situations. 

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The Sea Inside (2004) – Alejandro Amenabar (Spain)

This movie is based on a true story about Ramón Sampedro. He was a young fisherman who lived on the northwest coast of Spain. The plot of the film shows how Ramon was wounded in a diving accident that made him paralyzed from the neck down. This made him utterly helpless and in need of care from his elder brother and sister-in-law. The latter make various sacrifices to satisfy his needs. The movie takes the spectators into the future where Ramon is in his 50’s, and tired of his life. He feels that his life has no dignity, and he seeks legal avenues to kill himself that lead to conflicts in several spheres. People have different views on life and its values irrespective of their conditions and this leads to disagreements and lack of common understanding of the meaning of death by choice.

The introduction part shows the love of family members towards a given person who is challenged in several aspects. When one is physically disabled, it does not mean the end of life for him or her and as such, he/she should not lose hope for a better future. Such a person can get help from other people who will support him/her throughout his/her lifetime. The movies indicate some of the commitments and initiatives the society undertakes to safeguard the rights and privileges granted to every person. Historically, those who were disabled were shunned and denied the privileges others enjoyed. Ramon’s scenario indicates how committed are other people to ensuring the survival of such persons. In essence, he was born healthy and physically capable of performing their duties. The accident denied him such opportunities, but one sees him living up to his 50’s thanks to the great care of the family. Although the family members had to deny themselves some benefits in life for the sake of Ramon, it was worth his well-being. The same can relate to different institutions established in the country to take care of persons with disabilities. The measures taken by the respective bodies have reduced the pressure exerted on family members or guardians. The community being sensitized on the problems of disabled people has further ensured that the latter also have an opportunity to contribute to the development of the society. This has mainly been secured through some of the legislations passed to ensure employment of persons with different disabilities is several public and private institutions across the United States.

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The movie continues to show how the main character’s brother is obdurately opposed to euthanasia. However, Ramon is supported by two women, Julia and Rosa. The two have their different approaches towards fulfilling his wishes. First, Julia being a lawyer decides to draft a legal case for the process. Although she is a degenerative disease patient, she assists Ramon in editing a poetry story and plans to commit suicide with him. However, Julia backs out later having romantic feelings for him. Rosa was another lady. She was a young single mother who worked in a fish-packing factory. She was inspired by Ramon’s story and fell in love with him even though she had a difficult past in her life. Rosa tried to change his mind on what he was anticipating to do, but she finally agreed to help him. Here, the plot gives a different perspective on the types of friends and people a person may interact within the society. Someone may support an individual in doing the wrong things while someone else will advise him/her not to do that. Further, one sees the society divided by different beliefs and values concerning death. Ramon’s brother is opposing euthanasia as he is a Catholic believing that every life is precious. His attitude to that is shown through his committed support of the brother since being a teenager to adulthood. There have been several debates as to whether a person is legally capable of advocating for his or her death. Such an approach has generated discussion is several spheres of political and religious settings. On the one hand, anti-euthanasia has discouraged such measures as they make a human take up the role of God. On the other hand, pro-euthanasia has agreed that a person can take his or her life based on reasons that are legally determined. In essence, the debate needs further discussions considering that recently, people living with disability have been given several avenues to be productive in the society. Ramón is still alive at this point because of his brother’s love and devotion. The latter is strongly principled and refuses to cooperate with Ramon’s intentions of dying. The movie is pro-euthanasia, but one of its premium effects is the inconsistency it develops in the audience concerning the issue. 

The plot continues with the failure of Ramon’s appeal for death through legal technicalities. Rosa gives him an idea of video-recording his life before he dies from poison. On this record, he states that no person should be prosecuted or blamed for his actions as it was only his decision to die. In the movie, Ramon is very anxious about the legal consequences for those who assist him. This aspect brings out several legal issues that touch on the rights of persons like Ramon in the society. Unlike Julia, he was competent and mentally capable of making his decisions. Rosa was only a means that he used to die. From the history and present legislations, most countries and states outlawed euthanasia and physician-assisted suicides. The only US state that allows such procedures is the State of Oregon. However, it is applicable only for people who are assured of dying upon medical examination and, in this case, Ramon was not diagnosed. Such approaches are intended to minimize the incidents that may arise from persons who want to commit suicide or want to be assisted in doing the same. An example can be provided from Michael Jackson’s case where the doctor was sentenced for manslaughter when assisting Michael to commit suicide upon his nondisclosure of certain medications. This landmark case gives physicians the fiduciary duty of reporting such persons to the relevant authorities for the appropriate action. The issues discussed in the film give a background checkup of some of the issues affecting the society across different cultural, political and religious subdivides. The various approaches taken by Ramon in his life have indicated some of the measures put by different countries to protect human life and dignity in all spheres. Although people might have diverse beliefs, the ultimate goal remains the protection of human life. The movie has also ensured that it touches on some of the responsibilities of the officers in charge of handling such matters for the benefit of the public and the applicant. In real life, the personal physician was in agreement with Ramon’s decision but refused to assist him medically to commit suicide in the company of other parties. The case was appealed to a court that could not grant the wishes of the applicant, another indication of how the process was against human dignity. Further, history records that Rosa waited seven years until the Spanish Limitation Act expired before disclosing the events that led to the death of Ramon. Such measures ensured that the parties were legally protected while the moral aspect of their acts was wrong. The movie though ends on a sad note; the wishes of Ramon were fulfilled at the end of the day.

In conclusion, the film gives a true life story of Ramon Sampedro who intended to kill himself due to the physical condition he was in for the past twenty seven years. He tried to get assistance through the different legal channels available with the assistance of friends but he was denied any legal support of his wish to die. His last resort turned out to be a suicide attempt that led to his death upon consuming poison. The story surrounds several aspects of life that people may see differently in terms of values and beliefs. The issue of euthanasia arises as two sides of the debate emerge for those who support it legally, religiously and politically, and those who oppose to the same. Although Ramon managed to take his own life, the act is totally prohibited through several laws enacted by different nations.

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