The classic film noir genre has always enjoyed a cult following. It’s not quite like any other genres in that the movie is principally pervaded by dark moods that include disillusionment, bleakness, melancholy, evil, moral corruption, alienation, paranoia, pessimism, desperation, and ambiguity.
Movies like Franklyn exemplify these classical, dark films that were produced and gained popularity during the 1940s. In these movies, the heroes and villains are presented as gangsters, government agents, socio-paths, conflicted cops or detectives, petty criminals, politicians, crooks, murderers, war veterans, or any law breaker. The subject often deals with moral-ambiguity which pervades the entire gloomy and dark theme of the movie. The protagonists are not like in any other film genres because they embody generally negative values of cynicism, sexual obsession, menace, sardonic, fright, disillusionment, sinister, insecurity, depression and everything abject.
Getting a role, especially a lead hero (or anti-hero) character, in a film noir requires preparation for the actor or actress. The emotions and themes that these actors are called to act out in the movie require careful study. Delivering a disturbing and repressively negative portrayal is much harder than the predictably morally upright protagonist. More than just preparing physically for the role, the actors have to study how to effectively deliver the story and theme in a precise and realistic way possible. Unlike in many of today’s Hollywood movies, where actors spend a lot of time preparing physically, some actors even enroll in intensive physical training to achieve the desired look or spend time studying the action routines through practice with a grappling dummy like those reviewed here, film noir requires internalization to successfully give life to the hero of the movie. The preparation in a role in film noir is more on psychological and emotional than physical.
Many of us think that film actors and actresses have the easiest jobs in the world. They go the set, act out the story, speak their lines, pack up, and leave. While some actors do it this way, it can never be the case in challenging roles like in film noir. Only the real good ones, those who study their role and do a lot of study and hard work, are successful in effectively portraying roles in black films. The names of Robert Ryan, Robert Mitchum, Glenn Ford and Humphrey Bogart stand out in the film noir genre. Apart from appearing in various film noir flicks, they seemed to have developed a unique persona that is perfectly suited to the genre.
To successfully portray a film noir role, these actors go to great lengths to study and internalize what their roles are actually feeling and going through. Their preparation involves research so that they know the background of the character. It’s difficult to assume the very conflicting and ambiguous role of the protagonist in film noir. If the actor does his job well, it’s likely that he can deliver a convincingly real and truthful portrayal of the character, which is also a critical ingredient in the success of black films.