The Noir Aesthetics

Even though the "noir style" did not represent something completely new within Hollywood film making I find it necessary to give an introduction to the noir aesthetics, because this is something that the noirs have in common. Even if the stylistics had been used in earlier movies, the combinations of these expressions and techniques was to some extent new in american movies and to the american audience.

One of the techniques used was the low-key lighting which causes the effect of obscuring the action, and deglamourizing the star so that the composition becomes more important than the actor. Earlier American movies had focused on the star. The use of night and shadows emphasizes the cold and the darkness in the noirs. The change of focus from the actors and movement in the image to the compository excitement underline a fatalistic and hopeless mood. This mood is also fortified through a complex narration, often disjuncted and fragmented. To do this flashbacks are often used, which emphasizes the feeling of lost time and despair. According to Paul Schrader time is manipulated because the form stands above the content. In the narration voice-over is also often used , and in connection we sometimes get to see the end of the film in its beginning. This is also an unconventional use of the time notion that call forth a feeling of predestination and irrevocable past.

The wide-angle cinematography participated in making the space distorted and the audience disoriented. In film noir we also find a repeated use of an image composition where the lines no longer are horizontal, but vertical and sloping. This gives an unsettling impression. In the noirs the world often seems like a prison, something that these images along with the use of image metaphors like sun blinds help to underline. We also find an extended use of extreme low and high-angle perspectives.

All of these stylistic elements served to disorient the spectators and create a mood of uneasiness, alienation and loneliness in the movies. Thus, the dark and uneasy visual expression of the film noirs emphasize the themes.