With Halloween on the horizon, this week in Zeferino Professional Lighting we want to take a look at the key rules of Film Noir. Genres come and go, but 70 years after its birth, the “rules” of film noir have become part and parcel of the conventions of modern cinema and they are still very popular… So why do filmmakers come back again and again to this bleak landscape?
Film noir, in its classical sense, existed in Hollywood from the 1940s to the late 50s. Influenced by the novels of the “hard-boiled” crime fiction authors who gained popularity during the Great Depression, film noir is a profoundly modern genre. The main character in a film noir is sometimes clearly pointed out as such, but is, always, a victim of circumstance in some form, the caprice of cruel fate, a random, uncaring universe. The Great Depression spawned crime novels for a country that cheered the exploits of Bonny and Clyde and John Dillinger, real life noir characters who played out their parts admirably, exiting stage left via bullet hole.
In a film noir, you never know who your friends are, and there is a dreamlike quality (or rather a nightmarish hue) to the situations in which the protagonists find themselves. Many feature archetypal situations and characters, e.g., the bored housewife who lures a dupe into a crime, a drifter, a con man, or a private detective. The characters are drawn into the web of the story, leaving the well-lit world of Busby Berkeley for shadows thrown by a swinging light bulb.
The term was used to classify films which, in the main, used low -key lighting, rather than the evenly exposed 3-point lighting of classical Hollywood cinematography, film noir used harsh shadows and contrasts of black and white, an influence taken, in large part, from the German Expressionist Cinema of the 20s and early 30s, which featured deeply cynical views of human nature and also characterized by sharp angles, represented mostly by its architecture, as well as chiaroscuro lighting, which is essentially the treatment of light and dark elements of a composition — hard shadows, fast falloff, bold alternations between light and dark.
We see chiaroscuro lighting in every single film noir. In fact, the whole “venetian blinds” thing became a trope because of the stylistic shadows they produce, and the fact that blinds are a perfect symbol for the vast corruption film noir characters try to hide in their films.
Take a look at the following link to see all the key issues of film noir http://bit.ly/2y57GWS