Introduction: Film noir is a well-known cinematic term that is generally used to deal with the briefing of Hollywood crime drama and is more particularly used to place an emphasis on the cynical attitudes that also deal with the sexual provoking activities. The time period of noir in the Hollywood history is generally marked as the extending period of the time of 1940 to 1950s. The Film Noir is the time period that deals with and is associated with the low-key and black and white visual styling. This time is rooted with the German Expressionist of cinematography.
Over the fifteen weeks of the first semester of film school, we were taught many interesting types and styles of early world cinema which were extremely informative and influenced the filmmaking style of the whole class and made us better filmmakers instantly. One such ‘ism’ which inspired me the most was German Expressionism which is a unique characteristic of Weimar Cinema. In this essay I am going to talk about the history of this ‘ism’, its impact on cinema, some significant works and how it inspired me and influenced my filmmaking style.
During the Great Depression, times were very tough in the United States for everyone. In “Of Mice and Men”, John Steinbeck illustrates the struggles of discrimination and the struggle of finding a job, in everyday life during the Great Depression through Lennie, Crooks, and Curley’s wife. In this novel Lennie, a not so bright but hard worker faces the challenges of trying to find a job during the Great Depression along with a mental disability. George says to Lennie at the beginning of the story, “If he finds out what a crazy bastard you are, we won’t get no job, but if he sees ya work before he hears ya talk, we’re set.”
The most common archetype seen in noir is the femme fatale. The femme fatale becomes a distinct part of film at the end of World War II as well as a threat to transgress the patriarchy (Grossman, p.4). The origins of the femme fatale comes from "the historical need to reconstruct an economy based on a division of labor by which men control the means of production and women remain within the family, in other words, the need to reconstruct a failing patriarchal order" (Jancovich, 2011, p.100). Furthermore, Jancovich claims that the femme fatale was created as an effort to encourage women to revert back to their womanly duties and to quit their jobs that they took on while the men were overseas. He calls them a “demonization of the independent working-woman” ( 2011, p.105).
Ron Howard methodically positioned the film to reveal aesthetics of the societal atmosphere of the uncertain times in 1930’s during the Great Depression. I would argue that director Ron Howard did a poor job in a few scenes when he contradicted what life is like for everyone during the Great Depression. Ron Howard’s scenes in the film were very attractive and relaxing, in the scene where Braddock’s is running outside in the snow or when Mae is walking with her child through the bright white snow. Lighting in particular displayed in a very optimistic and warm manner, making a pleasant scene. On the contrary, nothing about the Great Depression is pleasant or optimistic.
Femme fatales are usually destroyed in the end, either by being killed or being domesticated, as though they are being punished thinking they can compete with men. Male dominance is always restored by the end of the film. In established film noir, the new economic, social, and sexual freedom that women experienced during the war years as they joined the workplace was quite unsettling to many American men. This fear of strong, independent women and the need to show the danger of this independence was shown, whether consciously or not, in most film noir. The Maltese Falcon, like many films of its era, joins in the distrust of all things foreign.
There are many things that make a film interesting. This include historical context (ex. social, government, econ, etc.) and the theory around it. Films represent their times and everything that comes with it. On the other side, is the aesthetic. Films can be seen as a work of art. This can include things like techniques a creator uses, narrative structure, originality, and etc. These aspects continue to shape the films we make today.
German Expressionism has influenced thousands of films and filmmakers since the art movement began in the 1920’s. It is known for its dismissal of the standard conventions of Western filmmaking for a more off-kilter style of storytelling. Some film historians consider Metropolis (1927) to be one of the most groundbreaking German Expressionist films ever made. However, there are many instances throughout Metropolis in which it deviates from the eccentric Expressionist style. There are many obvious occurrences of expressionism during Metropolis, for example the opening machine sequence, but conventional Western techniques are also common in the film.
The Maltese Falcon, a film categorised as Film Noir and The Searchers, a Western genre film, are both from different genres but both reinforce and challenge dominant social and cultural beliefs and values throughout each film. Each genre can be broken down into; codes, conventions and narrative conventions. Codes are aspects of the text that help the audience make meaning.
The movie "On the Waterfront" is an example of Film Noir which literally means black or dark film. Movies like this were more serious and explored more realistic and depressing subject matters. The movie was mainly about the struggle of the working longshoremen in Hoboken, New Jersey against the gangsters who bullied and extorted money from them. The protagonist of the movie is Terry Malloy.
They experimented with various editing and visual styles and techniques similar to that of the Italian Neo-realists By the late 1950’s the new wave directors had gained enough acclaim to move up to feature films. Elements of the French New Wave have been absorbed by the modern film industry and many unique styles and techniques are still present today. However, the New Wave did more than just contribute some new film techniques. The French New Wave created a societally and intellectually engaged cinema experience. The status of films became prestigious in a sense that they could spark political and social engagement and debate.
The Maltese Falcon is a successful noir detective film from 1941. The success of the film is due to the internal actions that are accurately portrayed with cinematic composition. It consists of four goals that good directors keep in mind when filming. The techniques of keeping the image in motion, directing attention to the most important object, and the illusion of depth help the audience to focus on the important aspects of the film that overall create a suspenseful and emotional noir film experience. Directing attention to the object of greatest significance is essential in a film in order to show the audience what to focus on or pay attention to.
In fact, most horror films open with the backstory or something that sets the tone. In this area, NOIR opens rather mildly, although there’s a subtle tone that is established. The idea of the cullers also feels a bit like a zombie film, in which there are hordes of cullers infected by a virus.
(p. 34)” Set It Off, showed that gangsters didn’t have to be the “man of the city”. Women were also criminals and bosses of their own. Just like all criminals, these women were tense during their first robbery, but that changes quickly when they remembered the reasons why they were in that situation. In one sense, in the movie, they all sat around a conference table and acted as if they were mobsters in the movie “The Godfather”. This shows how these women felt about who they were becoming.