Film Noir, is a genre or style of cinematographic film; which can be noticed by the pessimistic mood that the film creates. It was given to this category of film by French Critics, it really means ‘Black Film or Cinema’.
Many of the first films in the film noir style were american crime or detective films that were released in French theatres, after the war such as: Murder, My Sweet (1944), The Woman In the Window (1944) and Laura. A lot of the early Film Noir’s reflected the hardships and tensions of the time period, however some were contradicted with the Hollywood style romance and comedy. Film Noir was also used to reflect the cold war period, themes such as: Fear, Mistrust, Loss of Innocence, Panic and paranoia. ‘Anti- heroes’ were seen in Film Noir were used as metaphors for society’s evil factors, there was strong sense of moral injustice and the films rarely ever ended happily, or with optimistic endings.
Often Film Noir’s main character is a cold hearted, disillusioned male character; who encounters a beautiful but seductive female. The female character would use her sexuality to manipulate him into being the ‘fall guy’- often after a murder. After a betrayal, the female character would also be destroyed, this is commonly seen as through the loss of the hero’s life. As women at this time were given a more independent role, through working at higher paid jobs and not being viewed as the typical housewives, they suffered with the presentation of women through the Film Noir style.
The females in this style of film were very distinctly spilt, they were ether presented as dutiful, trustworthy and loving women; or they were presented as manipulative,irresponsible, desperate women. It’s typical to see in this style that the male protagonist follows the mysterious path of his past, or follows the path ‘set out for him’. The female fatale, always leads to the downfall of the male character who decides to follow them and indulge in their character.
Heros (or anti-heros) are corrupt characters, involved in gangs, with the police or a ‘lone wolf’. They often have the back grounds that reflect a low sanders of living, and being involved in violence and have seen the dark world of corruption. They are usually hanging on to all aspects of survival, until the end.
The primary moods of the film Noir style are: bleakness, disillusionment, pessimism, ambiguity, moral guilt, disputation and paranoia. Story lines are usually, non- linear and contain a lot of plot twists.The narrative of film Noir is frequently complex, which can include flash backs, it usually consists of sharp dialogue but a confessional voice over is also common in the Film Noir style. Amnesia is also a commonly seen in the male protagonist, which foreshadows the revaluation of the him being part of a downfall, due to temptation.
Film Noir films thematically show the dark, inhuman side of humans with a doomed love, which is emphasised by a brutal, shadowy human experience. The protagonists in the play are usually driven by their past, which leads to them making the same mistakes.
Film Noir films are usually distinguished by their Lighting, Deep focus, Depth of camera work, Disorientating visual patterns, Skewed camera angles and deep shadows. The setting is usually interior with low-key lighting or lighting from a single source. Any setting that is outside is usually set in a urban town with dark ally ways and harsh shadows.
Examples of traditional Film Noir?
Out Of The Past– Directed by Jacques Turner in the 1940’s. It is considered by critics a usurped example of Film Noir, due to its complicated dark story line, dark cinematography and classic female fatale. In 1991, Out Of The Past was added to the United States National Film Registry but the library of congress; as it was deemed as being “Culturally, Historically and aesthetically significant.”
Touch Of Evil– This example of a Film in the Noir style; was directed, written and co-stared in by Orson Welles. The screen play was loosely based on the novel Badge Of Evil, by Whit Masterson. This was one of the last films in the Noir style during the iconic classic era of Film Noir. In 1993, It was added to the United States National Film Registry but the library of congress; as it was deemed as being “Culturally, Historically and aesthetically significant.”
The Big Sleep– Is a crime novel written by Raymond Chandler, it was adapted twice from this novel to be made into a film in 1946v and 1978. The storyline is sent in LA. Th story is noted for it’s complex story line and the characters doubling crossing each other and exposing secrets throughout the narrative. The title is a euphemism for death, which has been adapted from the last lines of the book ‘sleeping the big sleep’.
Modern examples of Film Noir?
Drive- Director Nicholas Winding Refn, based ‘Drive’ in Los Angeles it is also well know for the use of his infectious soundtrack, it tells the neo-noir tale of a stuntman (Ryan Gosling) who moonlights as wheelman, ferrying crooks from job to getaway in record time. In between bursts of bloody violence, this critically-acclaimed film finds plenty of meditative character beats to make Drive one of the best slow-burn entries in the style.
The Dark Knight– Batman plays a hardened detective, so when his roles annualised within the comic it is clear to see that there is a clear element of the Noir style. It was directed, co-produced and co- written by Christopher Nolan.
Collateral– Michael Mann’s 2004 thriller embraces its L.A. Noir roots while playing with more conventional movie tropes, as contract killer Vincent (an underrated Tom Cruise) forces cab driver Max (Jamie Foxx) to drive him from hit to hit. Their violent and compelling crime-filled trip through Los Angeles makes the city more than just a gritty backdrop for the action – it turns L.A. into a character.