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Film Noir in The Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity

Keywords: maltese falcom film noir, double indemnity film noir

Midterm Paper

Film Noir Style inside the Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity

What components of a movie make up a film noir?

According to many cinematographers, a film noir is a term used to spell it out Hollywood crime dramas, with focus on sex and violence. Nothing you've seen prior in Hollywood had directors defied social norms to have a step towards raw post-Depression American society. It had been not until after the Second World War when Hollywood films began to portray the dark slick city streets, crime, and corruption of society. In early film noir cinemas, directors such as John Huston, on the Maltese Falcon, and Billy Wilder, of Double Indemnity, both incorporated different styles and elements to define the cinematic term that changed the film industry throughout the world in the first 1940's-mid50's. Both films, with respect to different plots, both used similar cinematography ideals to make a new sense of film genre, better known as film noir. Films began to be painted black due mainly to the great influence of German Expressionism. Female characters changed from untarnished beauties to devilish divas smoking and cocking a gun. Both Double Indemnity's and The Maltese Falcon's screenplays were first class, and took the audience on the non-stop thrill ride of deception and lies, and the acting of both films were nothing lacking remarkable.

In Double Indemnity, director Billy Wilder doesn't hesitate to bring drama and suspense immediately after the audience. The film was the to begin its kind that used film noir for what it in essence stood for, and became popular from the day it premiered. The movie commences with Walter Neff, an effective insurance salesman for Pacific All-Risk, first seen walking into his LA office. Walter, who's wounded, starts to record his story of his tragic downfall. The storyplot starts with Walter meeting Mrs. Dietrichson to converse about life insurance coverage. After deciding to get a Double Indemnity Clause, which in the end pays the widow twice the standard amount if her husband was to die for whatever reason, Walter begins to realize that Mrs. Dietrichson plans to murder her husband for the clause. Phyllis then persuades Walter to be her associate in killing her husband. Their relationship becomes more than simply work-related, as the lust between your two consider an affair. When Mr. Dietrichson is found dead alongside the train tracks, everyone except investigator Barton and Lola, Phyllis' daughter, accept it as an accidental occurrence. The daughter comes to Neff, and reveals to him that her mother had died suspiciously when Phyllis was her nurse. Then learns about Phyllis' relationship with Lola's boyfriend and confronts her. She tells him that she only saw the boyfriend to provoke him into killing Lola. In a rage, Neff attempts to shoot her, but is shot first. Phyllis then gives her gun up to Walter, who shoots and kills her. Walter flees the scene of the crime to his office where he is seen at the start of the film. Walter tells Barton that he's going to flee to Mexico and escape a death sentence, but only manages to make it to the elevator where he suddenly collapses to the floor and dies.

The Maltese Falcon opens with Sam Spade, a detective for the Spade and Archer Detective Agency in SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA, employed in his office. A client, who goes by the name of Miss Wanderly, involves Sam and asks him to check out Floyd Thursby, who supposedly has her younger sister. Later that night, Spade is informed that Archer, his partner, has been shot to death while following Floyd. Sam is soon an alleged suspect when the cops soon find out that Floyd in addition has been killed. The very next day Spade emerges $5000 by Joel Cairo, if the detective can get hold of a small sculpture of your falcon. After a brief tussle in his office, Miss Wanderly (Brigid) contacts Spade, and mentions to her that he is with Cairo. Soon after, the three of them held a short meeting, where they told Sam about "The Fat Man, " and how he is a danger to them all. The next morning, Sam is faced with Casper Gutman, an exceptionally obese man, who would like to offer a large reward to Sam for the capture on the Maltese Falcon. Following story of the falcon, Sam blacks out (unknowingly drugged by Gutman) and only wakes up later to a mortally wounded Jacobi with the falcon. Afterward, Sam presents the falcon to Gutman, only to discover that it is a fake. Casper then demands his reward cash back, and then receive nine of the ten thousand dollars, and tells Sam that he's going to leave to help expand seek out the falcon. Immediately following the conversation, Sam informs the police of Gutman and Wilmer, the men connected to the murder of Jacobi and Thursby, and Brigid, the murderer of Archer. When the authorities arrive, Brigid is arrested, and Sam is informed by the authorities of Gutman's recent homicide. The movie concludes with Sam handing over the leftover reward money and falcon to the authorities as evidence.

Before analyzing both movies, one must be able to fully grasp and understand the defining elements that make up film noir, which eventually drew upon a reservoir of different film techniques. Through the era when film noir was most popular, directors often associated their movies with a low-key black-white visual. Lots of the lights portrayed in both Double Indemnity and The Maltese Falcon were hung low and floor lights were infrequently high off the bottom. Moreover, light tended to enter the rooms in jagged and odd shapes in due course creating a sinister motif and ideology. This may be rooted back again to German Expressionism. Moreover, the key ideas in these films were produced from the raw school of crime fiction that emerged during the early 1900's when the Depression tore apart America. Film Noir, or "Black Film" in French, had started out as melodramas, but eventually became a definite genre of its own. While this term encompassed a variety of plots, the main figures of the films typically included the detective or private-eye (Sam and Walter), police, slum portion of the town, law-abiding citizen gone corrupt, femme fatale character (Brigid and Phyllis), and victim. Both Double Indemnity along with the Maltese Falcon associated with many classic noir ideologies like the small town just beyond the town, dark lighting, the detective, and the sex-driven femme fatale woman. During this period of filmmaking, sex was often symbolized through the use of cigarettes. Throughout both Double Indemnity along with the Maltese Falcon, scenes that appeared to be action packed or romantic were often followed by either character satisfyingly smoking their cigarette. While noir films typically incorporated and were discovered by their visual styles, movies commonly associated as film noirs revolved around genres including the gangster film, gothic romance, or melodrama. Double Indemnity and The Maltese Falcon both contain issues of fate, moral laws, and destructiveness which will be the basic characteristics of your film noir.

Nothing is more petrifying when compared to a femme fatale character. The female's raw outer beauty that covers her devilish thoughts and personality often seduces the most strong-willed of men. Private investigator Sam Spade and successful insurance salesman Walter Neff, both fell victim to the utter terror and attractiveness of femme fatale characters Brigid O'Shaughnessy (Ruth Wonderly) and Phyllis Dietrichson. In Double Indemnity plus the Maltese Falcon, the femme fatale characters used sexual innuendo's to seduce and control Walter and Sam. For instance, when Walter Neff first stepped in to the Dietrichson's stylish home in San Francisco, he was immediately welcomed by flirtatious Phyllis Dietrichson. As they conversed about insurance:

"Phyllis (in a robe): I'm Mrs. Dietrichson. Is there anything I could do?

Walter Neff: The insurance ran out on the fifteenth. I'd hate to think about you obtaining a smashed fender or something as long as you're not. . . fully covered.

Phyllis (with a little smile): Perhaps I know what you mean, Mr. Neff. I've just been going for a sun bath. "

It is quite apparent that Phyllis was trying to gain control after first introducing herself to Walter. Clearly, Phyllis flirted with Walter after he said how she and her husband needed to renew their insurance or something threatening might occur to them. She immediately related not being covered by insurance to herself and how she wasn't clothed because she had finished a sun bath. An example of seduction inside the Maltese Falcon, con artist Brigid O'Shaughnessy fakes her identity to use Sam Spade to apparently find her lost sister. Eventually, Sam learned about Brigid's lies and confronts her:

"Brigid O'Shaughnessy: Help me.

Sam Spade: You will not need a lot of anybody's help. You're good. Chiefly your eyes, I think, and this throb you enter your voice when you say things like be generous, Mr. Spade.

Brigid O'Shaughnessy: I deserve that. But the lie was in the way I said it, never in what I said. It's my very own fault if you cannot trust me now.

Sam Spade: Ah, you now are dangerous. "

. . .

"Sam Spade: All we have is that maybe you love me and perhaps I really like you.

Brigid O'Shaughnessy: You understand whether you like me or not.

Sam Spade: Maybe I do. I'll have some rotten nights after I've sent you over, but that'll pass. "

In those scenes, Brigid's failed try to manipulate and seduce Sam was due to his awareness of her lies and con artist personality. In the long run, the femme fatale character in both Double Indemnity along with the Maltese Falcon could be recognized by their personality traits that made them dangerous to any man that got in their way. Their sexy personality clouded the perception of many characters, including Sam and Walter. But by the end of every film, their ego and evil personalities resulted in their downfall.

Furthermore, the most associated elements that draw the audience's emotions out aren't always the acting, rather the setting and background components. In Double Indemnity, the eerie background music was what greatly afflicted the entire tone of the film. While in certain scenes, the music was perceived as cheery and fast-paced, in darker settings, like the introduction to the film, the heavy violin along with the drum and trumpets added much depth to the actual film, where the injured Walter Neff is seen limping ever-so-close to the audience. Not a minute in to the film, the viewer senses the pain via Walter as he struggles his way into his office, duly to the dark and heavy violin playing in the background. The music evidently added depth not just to Double Indemnity, but also for the Maltese Falcon. In one of the start scenes where Archer was seen walking outside, the relatively soothing vocals immediately changes to fast paced horror as he's shot to death. The scene then transitioned to Sam's house, which is shown engulfed in darkness, where he was seen sat down in his chair by his telephone. The music playing creepily in the background coincided well with the scenes tone as Sam is shown picking right up the phone to be told the news of Archer's death. While acting plays a key role in film noir, music and other background components play essential roles in creating the raw emotion and thrill of film noir.

In conclusion, the film noir style has made Double Indemnity as well as the Maltese Falcon one of the very most highly respected films of the lifetime. The use of dark lighting and heart pulsing music is merely a fraction of the elements that portray film noir in the two films. Both Double Indemnity's and The Maltese Falcon's screenplays were first class, and took the audience over a non-stop thrill ride of deception and lies. Moreover, the acting of both films was nothing short of remarkable. Film Noir has earned its spot ever sold as a life changing genre.

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