Shadow Aesthetics in Film-Noir
In a fictional movie, Shadow is not only a technical and thematic concept, but also one of the most illustrative and expressing aesthetic elements of the movie. Shadows vast dimensions have led to various discussions and studies along the history of cinema. The main theory of this essay is that a shadow is a comprehensible phenomenon whose interpretation and understanding are greatly essential and important. By taking the above theory under consideration questions such as “What are the concepts and structural usages of shadows in a movie?” and “Whether shadows have cultural dimension in each historical period or not?” will be answered. This article will discuss that a movie cannot be considered as an abstract element outside of its historical context and shows that the study of historical developments and cultural backgrounds of movies would be of great help in understanding the underlying concepts of shadows and their causes and applications. Anything that you see in a shot of a movie is part of that movie’s mise-on-scene and so is a shadow. Hence analyzing a shadow is part of mise-on-scene criticism and study. In the beginning of this survey, the cultural and dramatic background of shadows will be briefly described by representing the background of creation and utilization of shadows as dramatic elements in literature of Iran and other parts of the world. Then considering the historical context and applying the methods of mise-on-scene criticism, the significance of shadows and their historical transitions in the first half of the 20th century will be discussed by focusing on film noir. To do so, first the appearance of shadows and creative usage of them in German expressionist cinema will be discussed. Then the utilization of shadows in American gangster movies of 1930s and special ways of French directors of poetic realism in working with them will be studied. Afterward, technical maturity and expressing powers of shadows in film noirs of 1940s and 1950s along with influence of German expressionism, French poetic realism and Italian neorealism on those films will be perused. Finally the works and personal styles of Fritz Lang, Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles, as masters of utilizing shadows in the medium of cinema will be studied with regards to their influence on film noir. This essay emphasizes that shadows in a movie are practical means to study the cinematic developments and that the form, shape and size of shadows include conceptual hidden characteristics related to the performers or the objects casting the shadows; and will explain that each shadow is a sign that represents projection of hidden aspects of the personality of the cinematic persona. This survey, on one hand, will interpret the symbolic concepts and notions of these shadows and on the other hand, will study their historical importance and the cultural factors influencing them in the first half of the 20th century.
Honar-Ha-Ye-Ziba: Honar-Ha-Ye Mosighi Va Namayeshi, No. 46, 2012
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