Film Noir: History and Characteristics

Topics: Film noir, Raymond Chandler, Hardboiled Pages: 3 (799 words) Published: April 12, 2006
Film noir is a film style and mood primarily associated with crime films, that portrays its principal characters in a nihilistic and existentialist world. Film noir is primarily derived from the hard-boiled style of crime fiction of the Depression era (many films noir were adaptations of such novels) and the gritty style of 1930s horror fiction. Film noir is first clearly seen in films released in the early 1940s. "Noirs" were historically made in black and white, and had a dark, high-contrast style with roots in German Expressionist cinematography.

The term film noir (French for "black film") was unknown to the filmmakers and actors while they were creating the classic films noirs. Film noir was defined in retrospect by film historians and critics; many of the creators of film noir later professed to be unaware at the time of having created a distinctive type of film.

The use of the plural film noirs in English, is untrue to the French origin of the term. The plural form of film noir in French is films noirs (although the pronunciation is unchanged), which is sometimes used in English as is films noir

Film noir is a result of a combination of genres and styles, with origins in painting and literature, as well as film.

The aesthetics of film noir are heavily influenced by German Expressionism. Under Nazism, many important film artists were forced to emigrate (including Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder, and Robert Siodmak). They took with them techniques they developed (most importantly the dramatic lighting and the subjective, psychological point of view) and made some of the most famous films noirs in the USA. Concurrent with the development of German Expressionism were expressionistic gangster films in America in the 1930s, such as Little Caesar (1930), The Public Enemy (1931), Scarface (1932) and I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932).

Other important influences came from French poetic realism, with its themes of fatalism, injustice, and doomed...
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