Mildred Pierce Film Noir

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The film noir movement was a brief period of post-WWII disillusionment where film style changed dramatically to take on the unstable, lost feeling of people at the time. By examining films of the period, such as Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz, 1945) and Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944), the distinct, dark and dramatic visual style of film noir can be observed. These films not only exemplify the standard conventions of film noir, but Mildred Pierce also deviates enough from the narrative elements of a noir that it can serve as a commentary of how noir came into being. The film Mildred Pierce exemplifies the standard film noir conventions of the post-war time period through the use of complex narrative diction, dramatic low-key lighting,…show more content…
The style of film noir is largely dependant on high contrast low-key lighting, and this film is no exception. This type of lighting creates extremely dark, un-diffused shadows, which creates greater contrast and it also “hides faces, rooms, urban landscapes-and, by extension, motivations and true character-in shadow and darkness which carry connotations of the mysterious and the unknown.” (Place & Peterson 66) This style of low-key lighting stays true to the mysterious nature of film noir and also gives the film a dark, enigmatic tone. Although we do not see light being obstructed by objects in the film to the same degree in Mildred Pierce as other noir films — such as the scenes in Double Indemnity in the sitting room with light streaming through venetian blinds — we still see many more subtle examples of this low key, high contrast lighting throughout the film. The cinematography of noir film also differed greatly from the films that came before it. The use of wide angle lenses and a greater depth of field gave an equal weight to all the things in the frame, instead of focussing on just one focal element at once, and also served to add a strange visual dimension to the characters themselves. (Place & Peterson 67) This solidified the idea that characters in noir could not escape their environments and therefore ultimately blended into their backgrounds. Many other elements of style were also being experimented with, such as shot angle and traditional scene size. In Double Indemnity when Neff and Phyllis secretly meet in a grocery store so as not to be seen, the extreme high angle of the shot gives the impression that the characters are always being watched. These extreme high angle shots where frequently used to exemplify the powerless nature of

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