Noir meets reality

Film Noir-By Alain silver and James Ursini Research report ( PHilip Hampson)

What most viewers notice when watching a film noir movie are:


Chiaroscuro Lighting. Low-Key lighting, in the style of Rembrandt or Caravaggio, Marks most noirs of the classic period. Shade and light play against each other not only in night exteriors but also in dim interiors shielded from daylight by curtains or venetian blinds. Hard, unfiltered side-light and rim light outline and reveal only a portion of a face to create a dramatic tension all its own. “

{Low-Key lighting and bold shadows is a common attribute of noir film. This is regarded as one of the key features of the style/ genre. This is something I feel Dop Naby Diallo and head of Lighting Roz Dean did an amazing job of in the filming of Johnny Noir. Lighting was something Laurie and me had to really take our time on when colour grading the film. We needed to make sure that we kept the bold shadows especially.} (Pg 18 What is Noir?)


Odd angles. Noir cinematographers favoured low angles for several reasons. Firstly, this angle made the characters rise from the ground in an almost expressionistic manner, giving them dramatic girth and symbolic overtones. In addition, it also allowed the viewer to see the ceiling of the interior settings, Creating even more of a sense of claustrophobia and paranoia, appropriate emotions for the world of noir. High angles could also produce disequilibrium, peering down a stairwell over a flimsy railing or out of a skyscraper window at a city street far below. “

{Odd angles is something I was keen to get into Johnny Noir. The scene when Madeline is explaining to Johnny what shed been up to (after she shoots him) is a shot that I filmed and planned. I felt it gave all the power to Madeline, while putting the audience in the position of Johnny, powerless and weak. I also wanted to create a sense of claustrophobia as it was so close to the characters, wall and floor, and using a shallow focus. A particular high angle I used was for a shot when Madeline and Johnny are walking down stairs, I decided to focus on the street light in front of them to create a slightly fuzzy look to the shot.} .} (Pg 18 What is Noir?)


Moving Camera. For directors like Ophuls and Lang, the camera that slides across a room past an array of foreground clutter or tracks a character through a crowded café had a relentless and fateful quality. When combined with a long take, suspenseful sequences were subtly enhanced.”

{In Johnny Noir we used several moving shots. We even have a shot tracking Johnny through a café. I felt this added to the film by keeping close and personal to the characters, which allowed the audience to feel part of the scene. .} (Pg 19 What is Noir?)


The Urban Landscape. Noir films are most often set in the urban landscape, particularly the cities of Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. The Metropolis with its circles of light under sidewalk lamps, dim alleyways, a press of shadowy pedestrians and wet, grimy streets is the perfect milieu for the nightmarish events of noir. ”

{We chose specific areas during rece that highlighted these traditional features of noir. Street lamps were a particularly important feature. Luckily there are many locations in Bristol that have these traditional street lamps, which created the lighting and tone to each scene nicely. We got the circular glow from the streetlights very prominently.} .} (Pg 19 What is Noir?)


Flashback and subjective camera. Whether introduced via a ripple effect or simply a smash cut, the past palpably intrudes in film noir via flashback. The flashback can be filtered through a single character’s point of view (Criss Cross) or ostensibly detached and objective (The killing, 1956): seeing the past gives a reality that no amount telling can match”.

{We used a flashback to tell the story in Johnny Noir. This is also the structure I used in my comic Eddie Jones. In the film we also used quick cuts of reality, until revealing at the end that the noir was all in Johnny’s head. } .} (Pg 19 What is Noir?)



Film Noir-By Alain silver and James Ursini

Published 2004

Published by Taschen

USA Los Angeles













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