The cinematography of film noir is probably the most recognizable and defining feature of noir itself. I chose to watch films that were made very far apart, and this helped me to more easily detect the aspects of noir cinematography that truly define the visual aesthetic. The similarities between Killer’s Kiss (1955) and Brick (2005) are amazing despite the 50 year gap between the two film.s
One of the qualities that I found to be the most interesting and intriguing about noir is not just the darkness of the lighting, but the lack of lighting in general. We’ve analyzed the use of lighting from one side, but this quality – to me – created the sense that the audience really is spying on a moment. The lighting was natural almost – just a house lamp rather than full-force Hollywood lighting. This made the scenes eerie, as though we were watching something intimate, and thus much more dramatic.
Even in the outdoor scenes, which Brick consisted majorly of, the lighting is used in a way that conveys a sense of mysteriousness and distant. Watching noir films always feels like observing a story, where other films might attempt to make audiences feel as though they are within, or part of, the story. The noir aspect of dramatic and atypical plot lines adds to this feeling in my opinion.
I also found the use of unusual angles a very compelling way to film the movie. This really adds an artistic quality to the films that otherwise wouldn’t be present. It helps to set the tone of whatever the scene is. For instance, in the below picture, filming down on the couple’s conversation adds a very intimate, romantic feeling, yet it also feels overemphasized and almost melodramatic. Where most cinematography films from a character’s perspective, these shots are from an outsider’s view.