This week was an exploration into one of my favorite types of film…. film noir. I was so excited when I found out that this semester’s theme, and thought it was almost too good to be true to have to watch examples over the course of this, and subsequent weeks. (Oh darn, whatever will I do!)
Essentially, Film Noir emerged in the late 30s early 40s as a disenchantment of the general populace with reality. The hopeful excitement that ran wild in the 20s was tainted, and replaced with gang crime and slick city streets. Film Noir is ultimately a reflection of a realistic and cynical attitude which resulted in cities by crime and twisted moral values.
In the film itself, the technical aspects are essential in making a good Film Noir. Dark, wet city streets illuminated by street lamps and protagonists framed in both light and dark not only created a beautiful picture but was used as characterization in a way that dialogue could not duplicate. The unwilling hero is framed in both dark and light, as if to showcase the conflict between good and evil, past and present. The light shows how the hero thinks, and perhaps is more telling of his character and development than the limited dialogue.
My favorite part of Film Noir is the Femme Fatale. A beautiful woman shrouded in mystery, the Femme Fatale finds her way into the hero’s life, and is his undoing. The internalized power of these women is remarkable and complex, and the woman herself is not good nor evil. She is a gray area somewhere inbetween reserved for the desperate and morally confused. She is beautiful and haunting, and is often more interesting and developed than perhaps the hero himself. Complex women are hard to find in film, and Film Noir captures the essence of the refined and powerful woman and creates not so much a villain, but a person.