Film Noir

I have found four movies that contain elements/are to Film-Noir;

  • Strangers On A Train – the movie is directed by Alfred Hitchcock, based on a novel of the same name. Released in 1951, it’s about a tennis player and a psychopath who meet and both mutually agree to kill off a certain person in the others’ lives. I have not seen the 1951 version, however I have seen made for TV remake of a similar idea called ‘Next Stop Murder (2010)’ which runs with a very similar plot. The original movie is a Film Noir movie, and uses the typical characteristics of the genre such as the high contract visuals with the black and white and violence throughout. The dialogue from the clips online are well written like many other film noir movies of the time, the sets are minimalist, and the emotions in these certain clips give a pessimistic feeling from the outset. Overall, plot, setting and the sets themselves, location, contrasting lighting, and costume in this movie all contributes to its classing as film noir.

Remake Trailer:

  • Blade Runner – the movie is a 1982 film directed by Ridley Scott. It’s of the neo-noir dystopian genres, depicting a futuristic Los Angeles. The Protagonist portrayed by Harrison Ford is a ‘Blade Runner’ – someone who must track and destroy “bio-engineered beings known as replicants”. The movie relates to Film Noir in the sense it has a Femme Fatale character, Dark cinematography, and “questionable moral outlook of the hero – in this case, extended to include reflections upon the nature of his own humanity.” overall, it’s related to film noir through the setting, location, plot, the femme fatale character, and lighting.
  • Battle Royale – this film is a 2000 Japanese Thriller directed by Kinji Fukasaku. While it isn’t directly associated with the Film Noir nor Neo Noir genre, it does contain elements that can connect. The film is based on a 1999 novel of the same name. The movie/novel is about the results of the BR Act, a law passed by the Japanese government to allow an annual Battle Royale as a result of rebelling youth in the country. For this years battle royale, the students of class 3-B are chosen and while on a bus to their end of year field trip, the students are gassed and wake up to their fate some time later. Now with collars around their necks that explode if they disobey, they are instructed to land on an island and kill each other until one is left standing. The movie and premises have been compared to The Hunger Games, however this movie and novel came out first. The connections to Film Noir/Neo Noir begin with the dark and shadowed sets, which are typical in most thrillers but that style could have came from Film Noir. The dialogue as well, is well written due to it being a ‘book to movie’ adaption – which is rather typical of Film Noir. The film also uses narration in the near beginning and end which is seen in Film Noir, as well as questionable morals seen through the situation as a whole – making children kill each others – and the judgements certain characters make to kill their classmates by obeying these orders. The overall violence and pessimistic outlook on their situation also contributes to the connection to Film Noir which can be seen in the clips below –
  • The Lady From Shanghai – this movie is probably one of the more famous Film Noir examples. Released in 1947, it was directed by Orson Wells. It is based on the book If I Die Before I Wake by Sherwood King. The plot is about an Irish sailor who meets a woman, finds out her story and follows her on her journey by joining the crew of the yacht she will be on for her journey to San Francisco. While on the trip, another character convinces the MC to pretend the murder of said character for a sum on money. He would not be convicted due to certain laws of the time. He agrees because of the money that he plans to use to run away with the female MC. Due to an intervention, before he could commit the crime it’s revealed it all too good to be true and that in fact if the protagonist had committed the murder he’d have been framed for another. After a situation, they go through trial and once both the male protagonist and female MC escape together, it’s revealed the female mc wasn’t on his side all along and was also part of framing the murder on the male protagonist. This movie clearly relates to Film Noir because of the black and white contrast scenes, the murder, the dark ideas behind the actions, violence, pessimism, and of course the Femme Fatale – the actions and casting of the character.

***

Two similarities in features between the films –

-Two of these movies have a Femme Fatale (Lady from Shanghai and blade runner – a woman who’s intentions aren’t particularly clear, often not as innocent as she might look, and not always there for the good of others. In the last example, the Femme Fatale attracts the male main character to follow her on a boat trip where he’s framed for killing her husband. It’s revealed it was all planned all along, and she in fact knew about the scheme to frame him for killing her husband. The Femme Fatale in Blade Runner isn’t as ‘bad’, however still a femme fatale.

-All the movies mentioned above feature the contrasting lighting either throughout or at specific scenes. This gives it a darker, mysterious atmosphere and contributes to the film noir characteristics.

Two differences in features between the films. Despite it being Film Noir, every movie is unique and has its own features –

-Two of them might feature a Femme Fatale, but the other two do not. The presence of a Femma Fatale isn’t always necessary, but common in Film Noir. Strangers on a Train is indisputably Film Noir, however features no Femme Fatale to my knowledge. Battle Royal isn’t Film Noir, and nor does it feature a Femme Fatale.

-Blade Runner features complex sets, where as in typical Film Noir it’s kept minimalist. Blade Runner might not be straight Film Noir, but it is Neo Noir. The sets are complicated and futuristic because of the nature of the film. The movies Stranger on a Train and Lady from Shanghai have very basic sets.

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