Noir meets reality

European Film Noir Research report (Philip Hampson)

British Film Noir


“If one defines noir in terms of films that reveal the underbelly of society, expose baser emotions, concentrate on melodramatic events and represent the world as turbulent often unjust, then a substantial portion of British cinema falls within its scope”

{This quote states that British Noir films do exist. Noir films normally depict the darker side of society, so films like This is England could in some ways be classified as noir. Its basically stating it’s a matter of opinion} (Pg. 84 British film Noir)


“The use of expressionist visual style- low-key lighting and extreme cameras angles-and the central role of a sexually alluring but evil femme fatale, which are key elements in American film noir, are far less prominent in British films.”

{Although it is arguable that British film Noir exists, there is still many key elements of American film Noir that are not prominent in British film noir} (Pg. 85 British film Noir)


“The Victorian melodramas which were transferred to the screen in the 1930s tended to be those where the villain is powerful-the dominant figure until he gets his comeuppance at the end- woman are vulnerable and are made to suffer, and the hero is brought low and has an uphill struggle to right the wrong done to him. As in noir, it is a violent, unpredictable world where justice is something that has to be fought for. Right generally triumphs but only after the villain has wreaked havoc- murdering the innocent, misusing power to perpetrate injustice and enjoying the fruits of his wrongdoing- until he finally overreaches himself.”

{This is commenting on what could be classified as British Noir. With Good vs evil themes the Violence and unpredictability of American noir came into the style of British Noir.} (Pg. 86 British film Noir)


“The outlandishness of period and contemporary melodramas kept them safe from a censorship regime determined not to allow audiences to be led astray by displays of life-like criminal activity. The prohibition on the portrayal of crimes that might imitated, of prostitutes, and scenes of prison life, meant that the reality of underworld life in Britain during this period is barely represented. Literary censorship was much less strict and there was a fashion for low-life novels in the 1930s and 1940s. “

{British films had many restriction laws that American films did not, this may have been why British films had less characteristics of American noir. However Literature didn’t have as many restrictions so many books in the 1930s and 1940s had noir style themes.} (Pg. 87 British film Noir)


“American film noir borrows its milieu from the gangster films, its visual style from the horror film and its narrative structure from the detective thriller. It relies heavily on German émigrés and the expressionist heritage they bring with them. And it develops in a period of uneasy transition from ware to peace to cold war and draws on the cynicism, worldliness and social and sexual disorientation of returning ex-servicemen. Britain had different traditions and a very different experience of the Second World War. The temporary but real solidarity induced by the threat of invasion and the ordeal of the Blitz, the emphasis on communal life, the drive towards greater equality between men and women, made fore a more grimly down-to-earth atmosphere than in America. Nonetheless Britain suffered a heavy price for the war in terms of lives lost, property damaged, debts incurred, distorted economic development, continued austerity and a rampant black market. These traumas find an outlet in crime films, morbid melodramas and films about fugitives and men physically or mentally disturbed by the war”

{This states the difference between American and British Noir is due to each countries experience of World War 2. Where American Noir would focus on cynicism, worldliness and sex, British Noir would focus on Crime, Morbid melodramas and physical or metal issues for of people.}

(Pg. 89 British film Noir)



European film noir-Edited by Andrew Spicer

Published 2007


Manchester University press.







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