In order to be able to generate their fatalism even more effectively, many film noirs start when it is already too late: in a prison cell, on the death bed or even post mortem, the protagonists tell their story in flashbacks. This approach also reveals that film noir is less about the what than the how the flow thrives on its style, not the plot.
Often times, we learn the sinful details from a voice-over narrator. This almost obligatory type of narration creates a second level: the narrator knows more than we viewers; that puts him in a position to comment on what is happening.
Low key lighting
In classic Hollywood cinema, lighting that is as seamless as possible and without shadows was a fixed production standard. Not so in Film Noir, for which the cameramen immersed their sets in darkness. Instead of falling evenly into the picture from above, the light shines sideways or from below into the scenery, which made table lamps the preferred props of the era. Sometimes a set is only indirectly lit: big city neon signs force their radiation through blinds and throw checkerboard patterns into rooms in which despair is growing steadily. Vivid examples of the low-key lighting in film noir are Avengers of the Underworld or Secret Ring 99. In 123movies tv you can find the best of these movies now.
Low and inclined camera angles
The visual level of the Black Series is not only determined by the expressive lighting – the typical shooting position of the camera is quite a bit lower than usual: Instead of shoulder height of the protagonist, it is usually at hip height.
This deeper perspective feels completely different: it helps make the world of film noir feel a bit twisted; everything looks the way it should look, and yet there is latent unrest. In particularly intense scenes, the cameramen tended to distort the perspective by tilting the camera angry psychopaths, chases or murder scenes appear even more threatening, power relations tipping in the literal sense of the word.
The three phases of film noir
Before he wrote the script for Taxi Driver, Paul Schrader defined three phases in a book about film noir, which I find very apt:
The film noirs of the war years (1940-1946)
The works of the black series produced during the Second World War were still strongly based on classic crime films. As before, they were mostly shot in the studio and portray the investigation of crimes, but have a darker tone than conventional crime novels.
Examples: The track of the falcon (1941) | The glass key (1942) | Laura (1944) | Avengers of the Underworld (1946)
Post-war realism (1945-1949)
In the second phase of the film noir, the milieus came more to the fore. The big city as a place of vice and crime formed the center for films, which were increasingly shot on original locations. The characters are usually under significantly more pressure and the stories contain stronger female roles.
Examples: Golden Poison (1947) | The third man (1949) | Daring Alibi (1949)
The era of the psychopath (1949-1958)
The third phase of film noir dealt with its own formulas. Aware of their own motives, the creatives relied on new variants, significantly more toughness and exaggeration. The B-Noirs in particular drove their heroes to despair and the villains to madness; Manias and psychoses increasingly determine the actions of the protagonists.
Examples: Police intervene (1953) | Hot iron (1953) | Under the Sign of Evil (1958)