Film noir, which can be translated to black, is a French term created by film critics who noticed a trend in the dark and black themes during movies of the 1940's. As the way I understand it film noir is not a genre, but rather a style or tone of a film. Film noir also has a little different style and tone from the gangster movies of the 1930's. The gangster film that was shown in class was Public Enemy directed by William Wellman, and I will be comparing that film to the classic film noir movie called Double Indemnity directed by Billy Wilder. Before the comparison of the film can begin it is important to describe some of characteristics of film noir. .
Film noir is usually shot in gloomy grays, blacks and whites to give a feeling of doomed love, and they often emphasize the unhealthy dark side of life. Film noir is marked by expressionistic lighting and skewed camera angles. The interior camera shots are often filmed with low-key lighting, and what gives film noir away, are the Venetian blinds hanging in the windows. Exteriors are often urban night scenes with deep shadows and rain-slicked streets. The story locations are often in murky dark streets, dimly-lit apartments and hotel rooms of big cities. Narratives are frequently complex and typically told with flashbacks or voice-over narration. Some characteristics or primary moods of classic film noir are melancholy, alienation, disillusionment, moral corruption, evil, guilt and paranoia. Film noir, gives us characters trying to elude some mysterious past that continues to haunt them. Heroes, or anti-heroes, are often corrupt characters and villains many times include gangsters, government agents, and murderers. The protagonists in film noir are normally driven by their past or by human weakness to repeat mistakes. The protagonists are often people from a life of violent crime and corruption. Another main character type in film noir is the female's role, and there are usually two types of women in these films.