Stage 32 Glossary

film noir

Film noir is a French phrase literally meaning "black film" that developed in the early 40s. Film noir refers to a genre of mostly black/white films that blossomed in the post-war era in American cinema, with bleak subject matter and a somber, downbeat tone. The plot (often a quest), low-key lighting (harsh shadows and chiaroscuro) often in night scenes, camera angles (often canted or high angle shots), the setting (the gloomy underworld of crime and corruption), iconography (guns, urban settings), characters (disillusioned, jaded), and other elements (voice-overs and flashbacks) combined to present a dark atmosphere of pessimism, tension, cynicism, or oppression. Film noirs, often crime films, were usually set in grim and seedy cities, with characters including criminals, anti-heroes, private detectives, and duplicitous femme fatales. See also "tech-noir." "The Maltese Falcon" is an example of a film noir.