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Lions Roar : May 2016
Seth Greenland Double Indemnity directed by Billy Wilder (1944) “I killed him for the money and for a woman. I didn’t get the money. And I didn’t get the woman.” So opens Billy Wilder’s noir classic, Double Indemnity, based on the brutal novel by James M. Cain. From that point, the movie flashes back and tells the lurid story that culmin- ates in this foretold conclusion, a struc- ture that subtly suggests that beginnings live side-by-side with endings. Fred McMurray, in a role that will make you forget he played the dad in the sitcom My Three Sons, is a seemingly mild-man- nered insurance salesman who is lured into a web of intrigue by the conniving Barbara Stanwyck. Together they plot to murder her spouse and split the insur- ance payout. The unfortunate husband is dispatched, but things quickly go south for the couple. McMurray’s boss, played by the great Edward G. Robinson, is onto them, and as the noose tightens the lovers turn on each other like scorpions. The fundamental delusion the char- acters suffer from is that money and the promise of sex will make them happy. When the account of their descent has unspooled, we are back to where we were at the beginning and the characters are revealed in their meretricious striving and crippling illusions to be prisoners on the wheel of samsara. Far from a simple tale of lust and lucre, Double Indemnity is a Buddhist parable. SETH GREENLAND is a playwright, screenwriter, and the author of four novels, including The Angry Buddhist. Big Screen Buddhism We think the Buddha would have liked movies. Since he often taught through stories and parables, he would have appreciated the powerful spiritual stories that great films tell. From Groundhog Day to Kung Fu Panda, our 10 industry insiders nominate their favorite Buddhist-themed films. The first noble truth: In Double Indemnity, Fred McMurray and Barbara Stanwyck reveal the faults of samsara. THEATREPHOTO©ALEXANDERPODSHIVALOV/DREAMSTIME.COM LION’S ROAR | MAY 2016 45