Monthly Inspiration: Film Noir

03Oct12

Monthly Inspiration is a blog series that’s about what inspires me; filmmakers, styles, actors, scripts… each month, I’ll cover one new piece of inspiration. Hopefully I can turn you on to something that will inspire you as well.

I know this is a few day late. I’ve been swamped with school. But here’s the MI for September.

I realized that I have yet to focus on something that isn’t a person for my Monthly Inspiration. So, for this month I’m going to talk about a filmic style that I draw from a lot; both visually and for story ideas.

Film Noir is a style that basically dominated the 1940’s, but it’s been a popular style throughout the history of film. Story-wise, it uses mystery (think detectives), sex appeal, and plays into the notions of Good vs. Evil. Visually, it’s usually high contrast, smokey, and uses a lot of close-ups. Dictionary.com defines it as: a motion picture with an often grim urban setting, photographed in somber tones and permeated by a feeling of disillusionment, pessimism, and despair.

From Double Indemnity (1944) (imdb.com) to Brick (2005) (imdb.com), film noir is a truly expansive style that a number of the greatest filmmakers have used.

The Stories

Film noir is iconic for being detective, “who-done-it” films. The main character is a strong, closed off male; and he’s accompanied by the sexual damsel in distress. There’s twists and turns, and everything i clouded in mystery. In film, we talk about stories being high concept (event or action driven) or low concept (character driven). Film noir is a great combination of both. The search for answers means that action and suspense are built into the story, but because the main characters usually have major flaws to overcome, it’s also about the characters.

Orson Wells’s 1958 film, Touch of Evil (imdb.com), is the perfect example of a story being kicked off and surrounding an event but ultimately being character driven. Films like this completely speak to my style of writing and filmmaking. I love having deep, compelling characters that make me want to watch them. But I love when there’s plenty of action and suspense to make me sit on the edge of my seat.

The Looks

I’m personally drawn to the style of film noir. In my world, lighting is key; and noir is all about the lighting. The high contrast, low-key lighting of the films are a perfect way to accentuate the action and drama of every shot. Even in newer noir films, like Brick, that aren’t in black and white, they still play with the way lighting tells the story.

The production design of noir films is truly one of a kind. I say that because no other style that I’ve seen is so minimalistic and blunt. If there’s an object on the screen, it’s important. There’s not a lot of fluff.

 

 

I draw a lot of influence from film noir. The way I write. The way I light. The way I shoot. It’s all got roots in noir. I love the way these film look, and hopefully (if you didn’t already) you’ll learn to love it too.

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