Week 3- Hollinger: Film Noir, Voice-Over, and the Femme Fatale

  • Voice-over technique as important staple of film noir, began in the 1940's.
  • Other 40's genres use voice-over primarily to accentuate the verisimilitude of and to increase audience identification with their narrators' stories.
  • narrator's often contain weak, powerless narrators who tell a story of their past failures. Usually done in a confessional/investigative mode.
  • The voice-over penetrates into the past of the character's psyche that will arrive to a fundamental truth that is causing an individually and/or socially abnormal or destructive situation.
  • The confessing narrator is somehow relieved of guilt or anxiety by arriving at the sense of truth.
  • The truth involved about femininity, where the nature of female difference is met by the male character.
  • a paternal figure often listens to the confessional/investigative story.
  • "In this phallic economy, femaleness becomes simply insufficiency or excess in comparison to maleness"
  • Voice-over creates this fragmenting effect by establishing within the film a fight for narrative power as the narrator struggles to gain control of the narrative events recounted.
  • Film noir takes away the female's weak and ineffectual figures of Classical Hollywood films and grants them overwhelming visual power.
  • The male voice-over attempts to control the female image, but is actually pitted against the dominant visual presence against his voice.
  • The spectator is placed in a position where they have a distance from the narrative and don't grasp it as one ideologically correct position, but a battleground for competing ones.


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