The Femme Fatale in Film Noir
The pages of Film Noir are plagued with the corruption of political power and sexual depravity. This infestation has inspired a generation of screen-writers to forge the notoriously daring characters and settings of this dark genre. The Femme Fatale is not just the quintessential character eliciting fantasies of omnipotence and fantasy, but the subject of her narrative. Birthed from a society which lusted for wealth and exalted sexuality, the Femme Fatale has engulfed the stereotype of the defiant woman to become the ultimate reflection of her social context. The two war-time noirs, ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice’ and ‘Double Indemnity’, explore the inherent bareness which is nurtured forth from the dark recesses in which crimes takes root. 1 This unrepressed woman is the ultimate embodiment of raw manipulation who, charged with fears, becomes the ultimate reflection of her surroundings while still symbolising the Femme Fatale’s inability to be humanised or caged. From the first introduction of the Femme Fatale in both texts, the power of their sexual presence has already been fully established. They have been cemented and objectified in the male protagonist’s obsession2 In ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice’, the rolling movement of a lipstick case catches Garfield’s attention. The source of the movement is subsequently established as the responders view the camera working its way up her incredible legs to her full breasts to her superlative face.’ 3 Garfield is immediately viewed to be not in love with her wit or her character but ensnared with lust. This infamous screen entrance is the ultimate depiction of the Femme Fatales alluring manipulation. From creation, Eve, the ultimate temptress, and all the subsequent Femme Fatales, they have all obtained a blatant disregard for upheld societal values. This characteristic has shaped the Femme Fatales motives and boundaries. Post-war America was fraught with the dangers of freedom and the realisations of potential. Film Noir demonstrates the violent consequences of recognizing the variety of perspectives on offer in stories of modern life. As well as examining the difficulties of balancing post-war realities of female drive and ambition with traditional gender roles.4. The promise of the American Dream was one which nearly all sought after. The Femme Fatale is depicted in both texts as once having aspired for such a reality. The situation we witness the Femme Fatales to be in however now view marriage as a place with an absence of love, constraining and boring.5 Locked in a loveless marriage, Phyllis Dietrichson tells Walter Neff of the constraints of her marriage, ‘He keeps me on a chain so tight I can’t breathe.’ It isn’t at Femme Fatale’s inability to love or rejection of love that turns a woman into a Femme Fatale, but it is from the feeling of un-fulfillment, especially in her husband’s affections that morphs her into the being of the Femme Fatale. This mutual agreement of rejection from both her husband and her society, shuns the Femme Fatale into a situation in which she shields her own emotions and elicits those in others. Her cornered position, enables her to open up a world in which she only strives for omnipotence. This role enlivens a sense of freedom, in which she embodies a fake sense of freedom and happiness. Through this façade of freedom, Phyllis and Cora as well all other Femme Fatales are able to manipulate their victims into a false sense of hope. This manipulation often comes through her sexuality. The brazen shield which is puts on herself near always shields the responders from her emotions. ‘We are never shown the emotions of Phyllis Dietrichson. Only in the scene where Walter is killing her husband do we see a satisfied smile.’6 This safeguard which the Femme Fatale creates enables the deception of the good wife to be had. ‘Women were identified as objects and mystified in their role as social agents. They were...
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