How does our trailer conform to and subvert conventions of neo-noir genre By Sean Welsh

As a group we were given the task to create a 90 second teaser trailer for an original Neo-Noir film. Together we came up with the idea of a man called Sam, who wakes up with no memory of who he is or what happened to him. He then comes into contact with a women named Mary who claims to be his wife who then explains who he is and what happened to him. After explaining that he was an undercover police officer investigating a drug cartel who was found out and was thought to have been beaten to death but really was just beaten unconscious to such a point where he lost his memory Mary begins to ask Sam to go out and kill people she claimed where a threat to them as they knew he was still alive. As the story develops Sam become more sceptical of whether he is being told the truth or not and begins to question Mary until he finds out that Mary is the leader of another rival drug cartel and was just using him to weaken her rivals. She eventually kills him and the film ends with her taking over the territory of the rival cartel.

Obscured scenes

Obscured scenes- Obscured scenes are scenes in film that do not fully express what is happening, creating a sense of ambiguity and narrative enigmas. Very typical in film noir as it matches the uncertainty and mystery of the characters within the film and plot. In our trailer we have an obscured scene at the end of the trailer with the gun firing without it being shown at who its being aimed at.

Urban setting typically at night

Typical convention of film noir, results in audience having a greater sense of understanding and it allows them to relate more to the characters as that is the same location in which they spend the majority of their life. The filming at night is done to establish the dark, cynical nature of a city at night. We conformed to this convention by having the setting be a city, Brighton, and mostly at night as established by the opening two shots of the trailer.

First person voice-over narration

A first person voice-over narration is a typical tool that is used in trailers as it gives a clearer idea of the plot. Reason why it is so effective is that the narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of all the other characters whilst being a character themselves. With our teaser trailer we used voice-over narration with Mary and Sam both revealing crucial details about the narrative, such as the fact that they are married to one another, Sam doesn't have any memories and that they're both in danger.

Water and reflections

Water & reflections- Used as an artistic method to present the feelings of characters, used in film noir where protagonists will see their reflection in rain puddles or in mirrors. We used reflection towards the end of our film with Sam looking in the rear view mirrors of the car.

Femme fatale

Archetypal character type, a sexualized woman who uses the sexual attraction between them and the protagonist to exploit them into doing things for them that will result the death or imprisonment of the protagonist. Laura Mulvey is a film theorist who focuses on 'Male Gaze theory' and claims that cinema exploit the sexuality of women to attract male audiences, especially in Noir. However, we decided to subvert this convention by having Mary be powerful because of her intelligence and the position Sam finds himself in and not because of her sexuality.

How we used genre theory to better understand how to conform to the Neo-noir genre- Steve Neale

Film theorist Steve Neale theorises that genre is just a case of repetition and difference and that ‘Difference is absolutely essential to the economy of genre' (Neale, 1980) as mere repetition would not attract an audience. Noir is a genre that frequently adds conventions to the repertoire of elements in order to increase public appeal and influence. For example despite being Neo-Noir Blade Runner (1982, Scott) was able to add futuristic conventions to the genre and Nightcrawler (2014, Gilroy) offered a niche Noir storyline that was not fuelled by an attraction to a femme fatale but by a single man’s desire to be successful and the remorseless acts he is willing to commit to achieve his goals. We applied this flexible view of genre to our film. In our trailer we marketed the idea of memory loss, mystery, exploitation, crime and violence. Examples of these include the voiceover that establish the lack of memory on Sam’s part and the exploitation of his situation by Mary when her reasoning behind why Sam has to kill the thugs is “because I told you to”. We conform to the mystery and violence conventions by having Mary appear briefly on film and when she does not having her face in shot and by having an extreme close-up of the gun firing whilst aiming at the thug. Whilst we establish that Sam is vulnerable and the events prior to his memory loss and that Mary is in a position of power we only hint at the events of the film and the ending in order to create narrative enigmas that can only be solved through watching our film. In addition to having a variety of conventions that conform and that are atypical of the Noir genre to support Neale’s argument the enigma codes could be seen as ‘differences’ as they provide questions which act as incentive for audiences to watch the film as only then will they have the answers to these questions.

How we used genre theory to better understand how to conform to the Neo-noir genre- Nick Altman

Another theorist who attempts to create a clearer understanding of what genre can truly be labelled as is Nick Altman. Altman hypothesises that the use and understanding of both semantic and syntactic elements is vital to the establishment and development of genres. “A relatively stable set of semantic givens is developed through syntactic experimentation into a coherent and durable syntax, or an already existing syntax adopts a new set of semantic elements”. Altman infers that one of either the semantic or syntactic elements are traditional and ‘already existing’ whilst the other is modernised and has a degree of ‘experimentation’. For example, the archetypal syntactic theme of film noir is that a protagonist will be exploited by a femme fatale into committing crimes or various other sinful acts until they are either killed or imprisoned. In the pioneering and classic film noir texts, one of the many archetypal semantic elements was the protagonist being the ‘Seeker hero’ character type, who would almost always be either a war veteran or private detective, as seen in Chinatown through the character of J.J Gittes (Jack Nicholson). However, as time has gone on society has changed, and the ‘Seeker hero’ character type is no longer relatable to mass audiences and neither are the jobs of a private detective or a war veteran. This has led to a change in the semantic elements of film noir, with the ‘seeker hero’ character type and their typical professions being modernised whilst the syntactic elements have remained the same. This can be seen in Drive (2011), where the protagonist Driver (Ryan Gosling) works as both a professional stunt driver as well as a getaway driver and still ends up dying in his pursuit of the femme fatale Irene (Carey Mulligan). This example is an embodiment of Altman’s theory as ‘an already existing syntax (Exploitation of the protagonist by the femme fatale) adopts a new set of semantic elements (New character type for the protagonist). Similarly, in our film we follow Altman’s concept of modernising either a syntactic or semantic element while keeping the other traditional through our protagonist. Sam is being exploited by Mary (Exploitation of the protagonist by the femme fatale) however he is neither a ‘dumb lug’ or seeker hero, he’s just made vulnerable by his memory loss but he slowly becomes less vulnerable as his memory comes back as the story goes on.

How we used genre theory to better understand how to conform to the Neo-noir genre-Ruby Rich

Theorist Ruby Rich doesn’t see genre as being as traditional as just categorising texts based off of a checklist of the repertoire of elements, rather that genre is constantly developing and evolving. In the case of the femme fatale, Rich explained how traditional femme fatales were nothing more than sexualised women with no real evil or greed being their incentives. Classic femme fatales like Laura Hunt, Laura (1944, Preminger), and Velma/Helen Grayle, Murder, My Sweet (1944, Dmytryk) have been replaced by a new breed of femme fatales that are found in modern day noir films. In Neo Noir, women are usually pure evil, with sexuality and greed the primary markers of character, examples of this new breed of femme fatale include Catherine Tramell, Basic Instinct (1992, Verhoeven) and Julia Russell Original Sin (2001, Cristofer). We follow this pattern of femme fatales being darker and more powerful with Mary, who evilly uses Sam and exploits his vulnerable situation. The difference is rather than use her sexuality to get her wish she uses her power, intelligence and mystery to get what she wants from Sam.


Created with images by Jordan McDonald - "untitled image" • Rick Vos - "untitled image"

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