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Among the various styles of producing films, it has been observed the noir style is one that has come to be recognized for its uniqueness in characterization, camera work and striking dialogue. Film Noir of the 1940s and 50s were quite well-known for their feminine characters that were the protagonists, the femme fatale. This was most common with the French, later accepted in the United States. There might have also been reservations over these films probably because of the moral implications and repercussions that such 'dark films' would have in society.
Generally, film Noirs were characterized by the presence of a femme fatale who was the protagonist. The whole movie would revolve around this character because virtually every thing that took place in the movie would involve her (Doane, 1991).
The femme fatale was almost the complete opposite of what a heroine is. A heroine is somewhat a moral, law abiding women, and usually one on which the whole story or movie would be focused.
In contrast to the role a heroine used to play, a femme fatale was just as important because it was a role on which the film depended. Without her the film would not be able to portray the message it intended to. This is a similarity that can be drawn up between the two kinds of female protagonists. But the contrasts are also severe enough to create an abyss in the moral character in each of the two protagonists.
The femme fatale was one that controlled the movie through her alluring sexuality and achieved whatever she wanted to through her sex. This means that she used the fact that she was a female to get the opposite sex to do whatever she wanted.
Often, the sexual character of the femme fatale was exemplified in the way that she probably didn't have any other way to achieve what she wanted, other than using her sex. The hard life and hard hearts these characters had, reflected the way that they led their lives at the time of war and post war. This is reinforced by the fact that there was much poverty and strife at about these times, as countries like France were trying to recover from a major war waged up on them by the Nazis.
It was because of war that these kinds of characters developed in the real world through the French noir novels, and so, were also portrayed in films. These characters may have also been exaggerated to add spice to the films, but the real life characters were not far from the spice that was added in the Noirs.
The reason for the emergence of these femme fatales may have been a direct result of the way that women were denied opportunity to come out into the world and work with dignity. Men were more dominant than they are now, and hence, they (men) were the ones who had all the access to achieve wealth.
Since many of these men achieved their wealth through shady deals when they didn't have strong academic backgrounds or when jobs were not available to them, they maintained this line of work even when favorable conditions returned. In contrast to this, when women didn't have strong academic backgrounds they failed to gain anything in the world because they were not able to exercise the same free will as the men in society did. They were left with no other choice when there was no one to fend for them. As a result of the constraints of post-war society, women without resources were forced into shady livelihood, the livelihood of the femme fatale (Doane, 1991).
It was this shady livelihood portrayed in films that reflected the times that people lived through. This was exactly what may have been happening in postwar France.
In contrast to the way the women lived in France when they lacked resources, one may see that women today are independent and are characterized by having things like self-respect and moral values. Today the independent woman is seen as one who can achieve what she wants without having to lower her prestige and be subjugated by a man.
Today, in films it is seen that women are portrayed as individuals in society with a need to achieve whatever men can, and through the means that men also do so. Although there still may be few films today that make use of the femme fatale character to create something extraordinary, they are rare. This might be explained on the basis of feminist awareness today, which demands the need for women not to be portrayed as slag. The rise in awareness of the sexes and their portrayal is one that is far more serious than it ever was before (Bordwell, 1985).
The manner in which the characters presented themselves in noir films was entirely different compared to the way that they are today. The part about the characters was their dialogue that had an immense impact on the audience. Aside from the well written script, the fact that the very approach of the characters and the expressions they had were enough to send signals of an exact description of each one. At the same time, though the characters were all defined, it must also be realized that this did not mean that the developments of the coming scenes could be easily guesses. The beauty of these films as that though the characters were well defined ones; the audience was always kept in suspense.
The suspense that was created as a result of not knowing the next moves of the characters in each scene was antagonistic to the title of these films. The titles that were chosen were ones that immediately indicated what kind of a film it was and what it could possibly be about, but at the same time the title was insufficient to reveal the story or the outcome of it. This is what gives the role of the characters such importance. It is their roles that are tremendously revealing and only they are left in charge of this task. The plot that is slowly uncovered is done so at their command, depending essentially on the arrangement of the scenes (Bordwell, 1985).
Each character counted, and the role that s/he played in the noir justified and reinforced the importance of his or her role. As far as the femme fatale was concerned the existence of her role was mandatory to continuing the theme of the movie.
Often, in these movies the plot depended on the steps the femme fatale would take, and this was the thing that kept the audience guessing what would happen next. Essentially this is one of the elements in these film noirs that may be compared with contemporary making (Doane, 1991).
In the modern form of movie making it can be seen that there is an increasing amount of dependency on the inclusion of effects. These effects are like the lighting and the sounds. Aside from the sound effects included the originality of the sounds are often altered. These altered sounds undoubtedly do create an effect that attracts more attention but at the same time it must be realized that because of enhancing the sound and lighting effects the importance of the characters is mitigated.
By down playing the importance of the characters in the movie the directors and producers sacrifice the way in which they can use talented actors. Today, this seems to be the problem with contemporary filmmaking. Talented actors are wasted and the important impact that can be achieved through their talent is overwhelmed the technological serge that has influenced all forms of entertainment. Prior to these contemporary films, in the 1940s and 50s films were made in spite of the fact that filmmakers were disadvantaged technologically speaking. But, at this time they didn't know that they would be in this position, and rightly so. This is because if they had always had the technology that is involved in film making, filmmakers in the 1940s and 50s would probably not have made wonderful movies like The Maltese Falcon and A Touch of Evil (Dirks, 2002).
The Maltese Falcon and A Touch of Evil were epics in this era, and when they are viewed today, undoubtedly, there would be many that would who would be attracted by the way the film was made. It is basically the characters in these films that make the film the success that it is. The beauty of these noir films is that it is the characters that make the plot and noir the plot that eulogizes the character (Hagopian, 2003).
In the Maltese Falcon the viewer can very easily see that each character is well defined by the role s/he plays. The role that each one plays is complete and practically in every scene that they appear they create an impact through the words used. Their dialogue is an extremely vital ingredient in making the film what it turned…[continue]
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