Is Noir Really Dead? Was It Ever Alive?

It has been argued for long that ‘noir’ as a genre died a long time ago and that nothing that is done, written or filmed can be noir after that certain period of time. Film Noir was an idea created by French film critics who found the American movie change in its theme and context post World War II. The films grew gradually darker and more complex.

It wasn’t just the darkness of the theme that made a film ‘noir’ but it was the abundance of sex, violence, and style that heightened the uniqueness of these Hollywood movies as a genre. However, Film Noir lost its original coveted place in Hollywood and made way into TV. During the nineties and the turn of the millennium, noir was reborn as Neo Noir, Sci-Fi Noir, Post noir and other such genres. The validity of these genres to be classified under Film Noir or even be called as successors of the Noir genre can be disputed.

However, the central ideas of Film Noir have been central to the idea of human existence and their fears. Noir characters shared only guilt, and no love. They were fated to be doomed and relationships were meant to be destructive. The characters experienced heightened alienation, betrayal, isolation, uncertainty of present and the future, paranoia and intense existential angst. The characters were as human as one could get and there really wasn’t an attempt to make them ‘noir’. This indeed gets curious for the characters were not deliberately ‘noir’ but they were deliberately human.

This humanness suddenly began to wane and became lighter in nature. If people became less dark in nature or if they consciously or unconsciously strove to seek something comical in life is something that could be discussed at lengths. The basic tenets of Film Noir can be applied to real life even today and that is what makes the genre lasting. The guilt, the cynicism, the need for power and dominance, shifting of roles, inconsistencies, violence and aggression, alienation and loneliness are qualities that are unique to the human experience.

These experiences are central to people today and were central to people during the days classical noir movies were made. Only, the movies are not noir enough, which suggests a change in the taste of the audience, which seeks technologically superior and creatively diverse movies. This diversification somehow loses the human character and becomes more commercialized while striving to be experimental at the same time. Professional experimentation is what today’s commercial successes are. This is especially true of the Neo Noir movies.

Perhaps, Noir as a word is flawed. It does not explain everything that had to do with Film Noir. Maybe, Noir is a very loose term that could be applied to the human experience of cynicism, guilt, alienation and existential angst. The way Existentialism cannot nurture itself as a word or a theme, Noir may not be able to do so too.

The idea of Existentialism is to not follow a certain ideology as that may inhibit the person’s freedom. In fact, one cannot call oneself an existentialist if one is a true existentialist. That would make them live out or act out existential stereotypes. However, Existential ideas are persistent and eternal.

Likewise, Noir as a genre or philosophy cannot be used only for the Film Noir or certain forms of expression which are deemed dark by commercialized houses. One may argue that Noir doesn’t exist because the camera techniques are outdated and not in use anymore, and that colour movies can’t be noir.  Noir, as we know or understand it, may perhaps not exist at all. What may exist is the eternal human experience of angst, alienation and instinctual needs.

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