Film noir was an important innovation of cinema that had a lasting influence on both cinema past and present and the motion picture industry as a whole. The answer to this seemingly simple question, of what is film noir? is actually particularly complex. In answering it I must analyse many contrasting factors. I will investigate the main theoretical debates on what makes a film - noir, investigating the critics perceptions on the subject, analysing the phenomenon as a definition, a generic construct, a stylistic construct, and a thematic construct identifying if any of these terms identify exactly what film noir is. I will also analyse four of Humprey Bogarts early films which have been identified as being film noir, in terms of character, style, techniques and themes to see if they provide an insight into what makes a film noir, as well as looking at the influence of the pulp fiction novels of the thirties and early forties, the German émigré influence, the social and historical significance, and finally at the innovators of film noir and their influence upon the phenomenon that is film noir. Ultimately gaining some insight into exactly what makes a film - noir. .
The first aspect that I must address is where did the term Film Noir' originate. The term came from French critics who in post-war France had the opportunity to see a lot of American films, so they noticed the similarities between them. The French film critics termed these films Film Noir. The name was taken from a type of literature, which was similar in content to film noir called roman noir, which was dark literature. So the name came into existence, it literally means dark film. Which is fairly descriptive of what film noir is.
A dark film is probably the most concise a definition of this type of cinema that has ever been offered. Various theorists and critics attempted to define what film noir was. Meaning of film noir as metaphysical rather than social, and as dealing with angst and loneliness as essential elements of the human condition.