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.