Art Synk

Film Noir

Art Movements, April 9, 2022
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Film noir refers to sophisticated Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes. With roots in German Expressionism, dramatic angles and lighting expertly convey feelings of melancholy and disillusionment. The 1940s and 1950s offered the peak of this classic genre with films like Kiss Me Deadly and The Big Heat. At the turn of the twentieth century, Noir resurfaced in the form of Neo-Noir and Cyber Punk.


The most distinguishing feature of this genre is the strong contrasting colors, also known as Chiaroscuro lighting. Often shot in black and white, harsh lighting evokes a strong sense of isolation or loss while also fostering a sense of sinister foreboding. Shadows suggest the existence of the unknown, something just out of sight that can still affect the characters. Artists should play around with these techniques to create a surreal landscape full of symbolism and abstraction.

Strong composition is also an important element. Noir manipulated the viewer's perception of reality, and dramatic camera angles were employed to create further distortion. Wide angles were used to skew characters, twisting their faces and making their bodies unnaturally tall or short. Dutch angles, which tilted the camera, made the scene off-balance and gave a sense that something wasn't quite right.

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Storytelling Characteristics

Like its shadowy sets, the storylines are shrouded in mystery. Allusion is preferred over depiction since keeping the audience in the dark creates suspense. Voice-over narration may be used by creators to clear up any confusion. This maintains the characters' sense of mystery while also helping the audience understand. Flashbacks can also be used to flesh out the plot and simultaneously set the mood through nostalgia.


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Antihero Protagonist
This down-and-out guy was a refreshing spin on the "do no wrong" hero popular in the 1940s and 1950s. Characters with imperfections are more relatable. When their story begins, they are in a bad place, but they are able to redeem themselves by righting past wrongs, solving a mystery, and saving a girl. As long as the character isn't too generic, this character works well in Noir. Harry Maddox in The Hotspot is a well loved antihero.

The Investigator
An investigator is often the voice of morality. They are stereotypically a detective. They may also be the narrator and take an omnipotent presence. A mysterious detective dubbed The Continental Op in Red Harvest.

Loser Husband or Boyfriend
He is the one who spurned the Femme Fatale and is to blame for her moral decline and descent into darkness. The irony is that he is, in many ways, is just like the anti-hero; he just isn't the protagonist. Forgiving a character simply because they are the main character is a mistake that creators should avoid. Characters may appear contrived and unlikable as a result. They should avoid drawing too many parallels unless they intend to deconstruct it.

Femme Fatale
Sexy and conniving, this gal uses her beauty as a tool and people hate her for it. She often has a tragic backstory that includes a neglectful husband. Her arc usually concludes in tragedy and she is rarely forgiven for her sins. This wronged woman can be a superficial villain or a well fleshed out character depending on the story. Sherry Peatty from Stanley Kubrick's The Killing

Domestic Woman This is frequently a misguided attempt to portray the ideal woman, coming across as an idea rather than a person. In this male fantasy of traditional gender roles, she is portrayed as a submissive, angelic homemaker devoid of depth. Her reality is rarely explored, and writers should avoid falling into this trap. You want to create a person, not just a prop. A good example is Loretta Young in The Stranger.

The Good Bad Girl
This character combines the two female tropes to create a more likable figure. She is a contradictory person containing multitudes and is allowed to make mistakes. As long as it is handled properly, this is a fantastic character to use and can take on the lead role of anti hero. She is often on a journey of redemption and should not be forgiven for all of her transgressions simply because she is a "good girl." This can come across as cheesy and irritating. Her inner turmoil should be fully explored, and she should not be portrayed as untouchable, or she will become just another prop, like the domestic woman. Lauren Bacall played many of these characters such as Marie "Slim" Browning in To Have and Have Not.


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Neo Noir is simply a modern deployment of Noir techniques. It differs in circumstance, social attitudes and technology usage while maintaining the classic vibe. Examples of this genre include Blade Runner, Cowboy Bebop, Black Lagoon, Angel's Egg, Perfect Blue, Black Swan, Mulholland Drive, The Crow and Sin City.

Cyber Punk, also known as Tech Noir, employs Noir aesthetics in a futuristic setting. This subset of Neo Noir emerged during the Y2K era and explored anxiety surrounding computers and themes of humanity. Examples of this genre are The Matrix, Ghost in the Shell, Serial Experiments Lain, The Giver, Gunslinger Girl, Battle Angel Alita, Metropolis and Akira.

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