Film noir, French for “black film,” is a style of film that is mostly used in American crime dramas, especially those that give emphasis to pessimistic attitudes and sexual motivation. The term film noir originated in 1946 by French Film Critic, Nino Frank.1 Many films in the film noir style have been inspired by detective stories, also known as “hard-boiled,” written by American Novelists such as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Noir’s consisted of sharp contrasts of light and dark, dramatic use of shadows and eerie backdrops. A film score for a film noir was often dark and pessimistic and contained dissonant harmonies. Double Indemnity (1944) was a noir film directed by Billy Wilder, adapted from James M. Cain’s classic crime novel about an insurance sales man, Walter Neff, who is convinced by a sultry house wife, Phyllis, to kill her husband for the insurance money. The film score was composed by Miklos Rozsa, the music for this film noir matched the style with its light and shadows, tension and climax. The score contains a few themes and the music is dissonant. The opening theme of trombones and horns, suggest an impending doom. The nervous, agitated string tremolo sets off Walter’s flashbacks. And the love theme between Walter and Phyllis is as cold as their characters portray it. Another great film noir example is the 1944 film, Laura, directed by Otto Preminger. David Raksin composed the music for this American film noir. Raksin created a theme for Laura that was “hauntingly beautiful.”2 The leitmotif consisted of an orchestra that portrayed Laura as a modern, sophisticated woman, rather than portraying her sexual activity negatively. The theme appeared in the opening credits which set the mood for the film. The Laura theme is also heard throughout the film, but in different variations which also brings coherence to the film. Film noir brought many unique changes to the film industry. The dark and pessimistic techniques used in noir’s, helped...
Cited: 1. “Film Noir.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 18 Jan. 2014. Web. 27 Jan. 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_noir
2. Hickman, Roger. Reel Music Exploring 100 Years of Film Music. New York, New York: W.W. Norton, 2006.
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