Given that I had zero knowledge whatsoever as to what Noir is nor was prior to the semester, I would say this has been one of my favorite courses that I’ve taken in Media Studies. How fun is it that we get to study and analyze different films as classwork?! But, it’s even more fun when you can take a handful of the things we have learned over the course of the semester and apply those same elements in our own creation of a short film noir. The difficulty in understanding these elements is whether not we identify Noir as a separate Genre or whether we consider it as a particular style to any existing Genre. In our short film, we aimed to illustrate a number of themes and styles that were characteristic to previous film noir screenings such as femme fatales, voice-over, flashbacks, and dark key lighting. Given the short time period we had to innovate and put this altogether, it was somewhat difficult to be able to portray a clear backstory to the audience regarding our characters Brian, Richard, and Julia. It was also very difficult to focus and implement as many of these themes and styles as we could within that said limited time frame.
All of this stated, we were still able to capitalize on the illustration of the most typical key elements and styles of Noir. Earlier on in the semester, we discussed the importance of perhaps the most common element of noir and that is the implementation of the use of voice-over and flashback. The combination of their uses tends to demonstrate a character’s obsession over the past to provide a unique backstory that gives information to an audience that allows them to better understand a character or for them to speculate on different outcomes or even trick them when they think they might know what is going to happen. Tellote mentions in his article of Noir Narration that– “a voice in present time introduces and then comments on a scene from the past, so that we see as if through the narrator’s mind’s eye.(37).” He then follows up with this saying “In this way, the narrative can insert some significant information from the past or set up a context for present events, as in the case of Double Indemity.” We definitely used this combination strategy of voice-over/flashback when I was being filmed in our short film when playing the character, Brian. In the beginning of the film, Brian is sitting on the couch through flashback replaying the joyful memories with his ex-girlfriend Julia while reflecting on how and why things went wrong with them through my voice-over narration. Another few things I will touch up on here while I’m discussing this scene is the use of the dark lighting. The low-key lighting that we implemented was very crucial for setting the mood of our film. Place and Peterson discuss these characteristics in what they felt was anti-traditional lighting and style compared to previous films. In this scene while Brian is on the coach, there is a very distinct bit of light coming from the right side of Brian’s face to portray a gloom of a shadows past the left side of his nose to illustrate the characters dark sadness. The lighting reflection on his eyes at this moment emphasize even more of his sadness as he his attempting to hold back his tears. Place and Peterson depict this in their article when discussing their ideas of the “key light.” “The key light is the primary source of illumination, directed on the character usually from high and to one side of the camera. The key is generally a hard direct light that produces sharply defined shadows.” This element is very obvious in this scene.
As the short film progresses, the audience learns through Brian’s voice-over narration that this Julia woman had just rocked his world in a bad way. Furthermore, we learn that Julia is the femme fatale in this film. Her characteristics, however, were different than most other femme fatales we see in noir. While she was indeed a cold-blooded killer, she was not very sexually revealing nor did she create any real sexual tension to get what she wanted. Instead, it would appear that she relied heavily on her smarts and intellect as source for her manipulation into getting what she wanted and killing Richard so “innocently.” In Dickos’ discussion of Women in Noir, he gives his perspective on the femme fatale when he says–“Here, bad women, despearate women, determined women, or women blind to the destructive passions that motivate them are, much like their male counterparts, consciousnesses accruing the individuality and power to command recognition on their own terms. The femme fatale may indeed be wicked, but she is also fascinating, because she does not (or does not easily) acquiesce or suffer the traditionally imposed travails of her subordinated function in a male-dominated society.” There is quite a congruence here when I look at Julia’s character. Julia has an obsessed passion for her work that she will stop at nothing to prevent anyone from taking away or destroying her “life’s work.” There is also the aspect of how Julia supercedes both of our male characters as both of them die and she continues on when making the connection to Dickos’ remark about femme fatales refraining from subordination to males.
it should be noted that there were a number of additional things that we applied in the making of this film such as the dark jazz music to add a cold-blooded touch to the scenes, the corruption of Brian and Julia, but given limited length to this excerpt, I shall not expel any further of what I felt was most important to the contribution of this production. I would say that I participated as best as I could in this project given the limited time I had with it. One should also be reminded of the difficulties in putting together a production. In every production, there is always a deadline due to limited amount of resources and of course time. In a limited time, it is always so crucial to have a plan of action to coordinate personnel and equipment to appropriate schedules. There is also the potential issue of being limited in skillset regarding personnel. Fortunately for us, I feel very confident in saying that I was very content with how we came together to make this production work. I don’t think we had a single case of disagreement/frustration. Everyone seemed very well prepared and were definitely very cooperative. Before this semester, again, I had no clue what Noir was. But, having put together a production combining many of the key elements we’ve learned and discussed over the semester, I’m confident in saying that I’ve had a great learning experience with the course and definitely happy to say that I enrolled in it.