Film Noir, Ya Filthy Animal

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.


  1. Jim Groom

    Absolutely right, especially the complexity of the characters in these films. It’s that gray between the dark and the light that sustains the magic of the films, and what made them more than film—but, in effect, a way of telling stories more generally. I love your intro, and it’s all too clear you know your noir. Welcome to #ds106, looking forward to reading your thoughts, viewing your art, and generally conversing in this distributed, shrouded medium know as the web.

    1. admin (Post author)

      I’m glad you like my intro- like I have said before, I’ve always had a special interest in noir. I hope you like what I create!

  2. Amy

    Thank you for pointing out that the protagonist is framed in dark AND light. When studying the concept of noir, which I didn’t know a lot about before like you seem to have, I focused more on the dark aspects found within the character. But now I know that it is more of an internal struggle within the character, and a struggle for the audience, as to whether the darkness or the light will prevail.

    1. admin (Post author)

      Yeah no problem- and the fascinating thing is that sometimes it’s not a question of whether light or dark will prevail, but how the protagonist deals with the constant struggle in order to retain his own sanity. I think that a lot of the times, the protagonist deals with the constant back and forth of such a struggle in order to find an equilibrium. I don’t think people are either light or dark, and the characters in film noir embody the idea that you don’t have to be 100 light or dark in order to be good or evil.


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