Defining And Understanding Film Noir Film Studies Essay

The 1940s was a decennary of alterations and struggle, overshadowed by World War II and the morning of the Cold war that ferociously effected life in America and other parts of the universe. America was instantly plummeted into a war on two foreparts after the Nipponese bombed Pearl seaport on December 7th 1941 before this Americans were unsure about what there state ‘s function should be in the war. Every citizen was effected by and participated in the war attempt, they found themselves facing a new and unsettling manner of life. There was a great sense of pride and patrionism as a citizen by making your portion in the war attempt. Work force joined the armed services and adult females joined the labour force. Women became the exclusive earner for the household, this introduced them to new economic, societal and sexual freedoms. After the war many individual, immature adult females hated giving up their freedom after savoring such independency and this chance created an unsettled feeling in society. Womans were expected to return to their housewife function and to look after at that place hubby and kids.

Elsewhere scientific research aimed towards winning the war, led to immense betterment in computing machines, rocketry, air power and of class atomic power. Life was forecast to alter for the better, everlastingly due to these rapid technological alterations.

The war ‘s consequence was deep and widespread on Americas societal and cultural constructions, Life in America would ne’er be the same.

America materialized as a dominant universe power, although this new function did non come without uncertainnesss about the hereafter at place and abroad. After they killed over one hundred 1000 people and destroyed two metropoliss in Japan in a affair of proceedingss as a consequence of their atomic power, Americas “ age of artlessness ” dissolved immediately.

They had the most powerful arm in the universe, the atomic bomb, they had the strongest economic system in the universe, bring forthing over one half of the universes industrial end product, they had defeated facism. They were a strongly feared state and as they dealt with their new planetary and domestic possibilities the following few old ages were marked by two cardinal of import subjects ; insecurity coupled with power.

America encountered challenges and alterations of modern society, spread outing and disrupt alterations in gender and household dealingss ; accelerated, huge moving ridges of consumerism ; new scientific engineerings ; the great power of the atomic bomb, which came with great duties that were non grasped wholly ; and a new enemy, the Soviet Union. This uncertainness about the hereafter shadowed America ‘s felicity over the war ‘s terminal and a new age of uncertainty had begun. This portrayed an unfamiliar and vague feeling of uncertainness and pessimism.

The cold War ne’er resulted in direct armed confrontation, it was a clip of international belligerencies and tenseness. Americans learned to populate with the changeless tenseness of the Cold War as both states increased their armories of arms and their range around the universe.

These feeling of contradiction, tenseness and insecurity found there manner into American civilization, a darker side of the American mind had started to come up even though the media was portraying a sense of nostalgia and advancing consumerism.

About Film Noir

Film Noir, translated from Gallic intending black movie, derived the term from “ serie Noire ” ; detective novels which were popular in France at the clip. These movies reflected American civilization and its preoccupations at the clip which was the 1940s, a clip when Americans experienced contradictory feelings of optimism and great success assorted with uncertainness and unsettling alterations at place and abroad.

Paul Schrader described how the subjects, narrative construction and ocular constituent in movie noirs combine to give a inexorable expression at America, observing that “ ne’er earlier had movies dared to take such a harsh, unflattering expression at American life, and they would non make bold to make so once more for another 20 old ages ” . Schrader argues that movie noir is non a genre as such, but is defined by features of tone and temper. He finds four constituents that influence movie noir and give it its dark, misanthropic tone ; 1 ) War and postwar disenchantment 2 ) postwar pragmatism 3 ) German expressionism 4 ) the “ hard-bitten ” tradition.

Many of the original movie noirs were adapted from popular novels from the 1930s. Hammett, Cain and Chandler were among these writers, they had their roots in mush viction, with a tough misanthropic manner of moving and speaking. Schrader notes that when the film makers of the fortiess turned to the “ American tough moral under strata, the hard-bitten school was waiting with predetermined conventions of hero ‘s, minor characters, secret plans, duologues and subjects ” .

In Movie-made America, Robert Sklar notes that movie noir, refers to the “ psychological thrillers that emerged at the clip of the war ” . He indicates that a trademark of movie noir is a sense of “ people trapped – trapped in webs of paranoia and fright, unable to state guilt from artlessness, true individuality from false ” . He states “ In the terminal, immorality is exposed, though frequently merely hardly, and the endurance of good remains problem and equivocal ” .

There is non an overall understanding among critics about what movies form movie noir, but there are undoubtfully common features about the movies, the temper of darkness, force and ambiguity – that are undisputed.


Many features of movie noir were the consequence of an interaction between film makers, new attacks to movie devising, and a tenseness and uncertainness that lay underneath the nationalism and optimism of the fortiess. Film noir had a ocular manner that emphasized a claustrophobic and off-balance feel to the universe, angular unnatural composings, shadows and subdued lighting portrayed a deformed position of the universe ; nil was as it seemed.

The influence of German expressionist lighting was brought to bear by the immense figure of German and east Europeans working in Hollywood ; Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder, Otto Preminger, Robert Siodmak etc. The scenes were shot in night-for-night shot, which meant really hiting dark scenes at dark instead than in bright daytime with dark filters.

Schrader noted that on the surface, the unreal studio lighting of the German Expressionist influence might hold seemed incompatible with station war pragmatism, but the alone quality of movie noir allowed it to blend the apparently contradictory elements into a unvarying manner.

The chief character in the movie was about ever a individual adult male, frequently a detective, psychologically impaired or wounded and although they might look compromised or equivocal they normally maintained to there ain codification of right and incorrect. Often these anti-hero ‘s found themselves captivated by a adult female, looking for a adult male to foster their strategies.

Another well known feature was femme fatal, literally intending fatal adult female in French. The new economic, societal and sexual freedoms that adult females experienced during the war old ages as they joined the labor force in immense Numberss was profoundly fazing to many Americans. This struggle and fright of strong, independent adult females and the desire to demo the dangers of this independency was reflected in movie noir, consciously or non. A femme fatale was a glamourous, unsafe, seductive adult female that had a strong desire for wealth and power. The character type derived from anti-heroin coquettes of early film. The female in movie noir were wither of two types – reliable, duteous, loving and trusty adult females or ; femme fatales – cryptic, delusory, destructive, double-crossing, tough-sweet, gorgeous, unloving, irresponsible, marauding, undependable, despairing, manipulative adult females. The femme fatal would take the disillusioned, fighting, and doomed hero into perpetrating slaying or some other offense of passion and convey them both to a ruin.

Besides associated with movie noir, are flashbacks which are rather normally used to demo the impression of a haunting obsessional memory. The flashback is introduced when the image in the present dissolves to an image in the yesteryear, assisting to state the narrative more clearly. In The Killers ( 1946 ) by Robert Siodmak, a adult male is killed in the beginning of the movie by two hired slayers. As he is being warned by one of his co-workers while anticipating inevitable decease, he merely says: “ I did something bad one time ” . The movie explores what is hidden behind his words.

The movies

The Maltese Falcon, Laura, Double Indemnity and Murder my Sweet were some of the original movie noirs viewed by Gallic critics after the war and are still cited by many critics as the beginning of the movie noir motion. Some of the more widely recognised movie noirs were made during the first half of the 1940s including: The Blue Dahlia, This Gun for hire, Gaslight, Mildred Pierce, The Woman in the Window, Spellbound, The Big Sleep, Gilda, The Postman ever Rings Twice and The dark Mirror.

Nothing in America was the same after World War II, including Hollywood movies. An even greater sense of darkness and pragmatism began to crawl into movie noir. Films tended more toward offenses in the street, political corruptness and constabulary, during the post-war stage which ran approximately from 1945-49. A new strain of less romantic hero ‘s made their visual aspect – Burt Lancaster, Richard Conte. In these post war old ages Hollywood was contending it ain conflict while film makers and other members of the movie community were targeted by the authorities in their attempts to look into and delve out Communist revolutionists. Harmonizing to Schrader, the concluding stage of movie noir was marked by personal decomposition, psychotic action and suicidal impulse. He states, “ The noir hero, apparently under the weight of 10 old ages of desperation, started to travel bananas. ” The motion of movie noir was over.