Film Noir: By Taylah Green

Film Noir is a French phrase that literally means “black film.” It arose in the 1940’s, after World War II, taking advantage of society’s anxiety and suspicion. The classic era of Film Noir is usually dated from the 1940’s to the 1950’s where it began to die down. However not completely, as aspects of Film Noir were seen in films after that period called Neo-Noir, which will be discussed later. It is said that “Film Noir is not a genre, but rather the mood, style, point of view or tone of a film.” This makes sense as they were coming out of World War II when Film Noir started so most of the Noir film makers were expressing their own moods or point of view of the times through their films. To fully understand Film Noir, expressionism needs to be understood.

Expressionism was a cultural movement that originated in Germany, starting with poetry and paintings. It would usually be ‘radically distorted’ to evoke moods or ideas. The expressionist movement in film is commonly known as German Expressionism. The most popular example of German Expressionism is Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). The term ‘expressionism’ sometimes refers to stylistic devices that resemble the German Expressionism movement, like Film Noir.

The two main characters in Film Noir are usually, the hard-boiled detective and the femme fatale. The hard-boiled detective can be recognised by his cynical, flawed nature and his cool and calm sort of attitude. This Protagonist was often morally-ambiguous from the dark underworld of violence and crime and would usually end up losing in the end. He is usually seduced by the female femme fatale who is beautiful but also promiscuous and double crossing as well. She would usually use her sexuality to make the hard-boiled detective fall for her. After her double-crossings she is usually destroyed, often at the cost of the hero’s life.

Storylines in Film Noir films were often non-linear and twisting,...