Noir, a Way of Life

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by btrachtenberg100 on 10-03-2010

One cannot categorize film noir. To label it as a genre would demean its importance, for it is a pronounced style that revolutionized the way we watch film. It’s realist approach by injecting cinema with cynicism and powerful compositions. The lighting and extensive use of shadows reflects the deceitful nature of the characters in the film as well as illustrates the dark subtext that these films carry. A film like Double Indemnity shows the underlying provocative nature of the noir film. While on the surface it seems quite funny because the dialogue and elements that make up the characters reflects a pulpy detective novel, it’s just frosting for a darker visage. Freud describes everybody as having an unconscious desire for self destruction, called the thantos. While noir style is regarded as being more realist oriented because of its use of real locations, I propose that films like Double Indemnity are more stylish reflecting a dreamlike landscape where doom is inevitable. It explores the unconscious desires of men to die as well as women’s repressed sexual nature that runs rampant. Like a dream the character’s aren’t in control of their own lives as illustrated by strong compositions and a camera moving around the subjects rather that the characters behaving more theatrically as in earlier films of the period (pre-WWII). When we dream, what we experience is based on the past. Any anxiety we have regarding fear, anger, and sexual frustration is manifested in the images we conjure up, yet none can be taken at face value. We see that dreams about teeth breaking represent unresolved anxiety and anger, just as dreams of a cigar represent a phallus. This is the latent meaning of the dream. Noir style is constructed with lighting that obscures the subjects hiding a deeper meaning. The characters themselves, specifically the Femme fetal, aren’t what they appear to be. And like the dreamer, the protagonist, as I said, is often not in control of his fate. While film is supposed to transpose reality onto the screen, pre-WWII films have a very optimistic quality that renders them superficial. The grittiness of the noir film is appealing because it reflects the crappy aspects of life and fears that we are all subject to, yet it is reflected in a very distorted state.
I find it ironic that the noir style is largely an American icon while it is actually the progeny of German expressionism. Film is meant to be expressive and engender critical thinking and I feel that the emergence of this style has allowed filmmakers to dig deeper into our psyche and manifest our deepest anxieties. This rarely happens when everything is presented in a world where bad guys don’t prosper. Why not? Upon explaining the “duplicitous” nature of women in the film noir to a friend he commented “That’s how it is in real life”.
I think it’s interesting to note the new age noirs which have infiltrated the cinema from filmmakers such as Coen Brothers films, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Batman. The style has since Double Indemnity, transcended the crime genre and permeated every category. Its popularity has increased not only because of its provocative visual style but it also suggests a darker, more mysterious side of humanity.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

4 Comments Already, Leave Yours Too

Amy Herzog on 11 March, 2010 at 5:45 pm #

REPOSTED FOR RHODINE LOUISAIRE (original post was accidentally published on the main blog):

Could you say that film noir is the film version of hiphop? In that Hiphop is not only a genre of music for some people it’s the way the dress speak dance. It is a way of life. Was film noir a sort of way of life? I just want to know what you mean by more than jsut a genre

nrose100 on 12 March, 2010 at 2:28 am #

I loved your topics on dreams in film noir. Often, the black and white chiaroscuro in film noir, and the grainy neo noir tend to create a dream like atmosphere in those films. I feel, this might be, because this style usually does not have linear story telling, and characters in these fillms are constantly retelling what occurred from their point of view and memory. However, I wish you described Thantos more in relation to film noir. Also, tell your friend that not all women are two-faced, just like how not all men are dogs.

dana318 on 19 March, 2010 at 9:08 am #

I agree with how the noir in film brings the mysterious end to the visionary. Who Framed Roger Rabbit is something I see as a good example as well with its play on shadows.

jarrodlabine on 19 March, 2010 at 10:53 am #

Is Film Noir a genre or a form? Can it be both? I think so. Yes it was termed “Film Noir” by a bunch of French film critics, but I do believe that a lot of the directors knew they were contributing to a cycle of filmmaking that bared stylistic similarities. Yes, they borrowed from German Expressionism with its lighting and shadows, but I see Film Noir as a self-contained reflection of American cultural preoccupations in film form. To quote Alain Silver (writer of “Film Noir”), “Film Noir is literally black film, not just in the sense of being full of physically dark images, nor reflecting a dark mood in American society, but equally, almost empirically, as a black slate on which the culture could inscribe its ills and in the process produce a catharsis to help relieve them.”

Post a Comment

Spam prevention powered by Akismet