Friday, 29 January 2010

Film Noir

"to put their toe in the cold water of fear to see what it's like" - Hitchcock on the way a thriller encourages the audience.

Perhaps the beginning of the thriller genre in film form is through Film Noir, black and white films from 1938-1955 which have dark storylines twinned with low key lighting. The low key lighting might hide true feelings or intentions and the dark world of one or a few characters. They often involve a beautiful married woman, but who wishes to leave thier husband or are promiscuious, with loose morals. The storyline is often narrated and told retrospectively and there is always a twist or unexpected element. It is this element that makes these films thrillers. They are very unlike thrillers of today, with slow pace editting and very different music and style. Thrillers of today often include fast paced music and editting to keep the audience on thier toes, film noir uses low lighting and build up of characters to thrill the audience.

I have watched the opening of Double Indemnity to get a feel for film noir and ultimately decide whether i will use elements of this type of thriller in my opening.

The opening shot is a man walking with crutches towards the camera, the man is out of focus and the camera zooms in slowly. During this shot, dramatic music plays. It is brass music which is very typical of the period of time and also very typical of Film Noir. Titles are shown in white square capital letters, with black shadows. These letters show up well against the shot in the background as they are bright white. The fact that the letters are so big and intrusive create an imposing effect to the veiwer already. This shot is followed by an establishing shot of the setting, an overveiw of a city tracking one car. This is followed by shots of the car from different shots, the car is moving fast and driving recklessly, the music is still playing. The audience gets the impression of a car chase. The car stops and a man gets out, the camera tracks him from behind and we do not see his face, this is typical and keeps the veiwer in suspense, as there is an uneasy feeling of not knowing him. The man limps and has one arm out of the sleeve of his coat, with a bloody shoulder, a bulletwound? He is a very broad shouldered man, not a man you would expect to be victim, therefore we assume he is guilty of something. The next scene is an establishing shot of an office, from a high angle. The office is empty as it is clearly evening and we wonder why the man is arriving at the office so late. The music turns to a slower paced peice and the lighting is very low key inside the office. The man sits at his seat. He has his head in his hands, this is the first time we see the mans face at a medium close up. He lights a cigarette using one hand. He then continues to do a few things with just one hand. Many things are uncertain at this point, his rush to get to the office, his quietness, his disability to use both arms. A close up shows the sweat dripping from his head. He picks up the phone and talks very arrogantly into the phone, he is very confident and bigheadedly confesses to killing someone. During this conversation we find out that he is married with children. His confidence suggests he doesn't care if he is found guilty, which is shocking to the audience as he is a father. However, the way he acts when on the phone shows he does care and is nervous or scared. The confession is also a surprise, creating the thrill element. Film Noir uses very different ways to create this element. Compared to modern day thrillers I found this film quite boring as it is slow paced and the filming doesnt interest me. If i was going to use elements of film noir in my work I would use the low key lighting and black and white film. I think this in itself creates a thrilling element as the dark shadows creates an uneasy feeling as there is an element of the unknown in the darkness. I think it would be difficult to recreate all the elements of film noir as the settings and props would be difficult to find as well as the music, however elements of the editting used in a modern way could be quite interesting.

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