Film noir was a style of black and white American mystery and crime drama films that evolved in the 40s and 50s. The mood or tone of the film often reflected fear, despair, ambiguity, entrapment, and paranoia—emotions produced by the insecurities of the Cold War period. You would hardly find happily-ever-after endings in a film noir. Some notable films of that era include Rebecca (1940), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Laura (1944), and The Blue Dahlia (1946). More modern releases, also known as neo-noirs or post-noirs, are Fatal Attraction (1987), Basic Instinct (1992), and Mulholland Dr. (2001).
The film noir films feature an actress in the role of a femme fatale. One of the definitions of femme fatale in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “a very attractive woman who causes trouble or unhappiness for the men who become involved with her.” Females in film noir films span the spectrum from honest and loving to dishonest and manipulative. Regardless, the end result is the same: The femme fatale implicates the male protagonist by involving him in intricate and dubious circumstances that plunges both of them into the depths of crime—usually murder—and inevitable disaster.
One reviewer referred to my mystery novel, False Impressions, as “a film noir style crime drama.” The theme of my story mirrors that trend to a degree, and I’ll sum it up here. My main protagonist Megan Scott meets investigative reporter Michael Elliott and, in film noir fashion, their working relationship places him in a desperate position after they become primary suspects in a murder investigation. Their lives spiral out of control as incriminating evidence builds and threatens to obliterate their weak alibis. Rising mistrust between them follows on the heels of despair and sets up a dark mood that, though not supported by smoke-filled rooms or abandoned warehouses often depicted in a film noir, is tangible nonetheless.
As for the femme fatale in my story, Megan Scott certainly fits the description: young, attractive, and vulnerable. But she’s also observant, smart, and independent.
I’d like to hear what readers have to say. Would you consider Megan Scott a femme fatale? Or does that label more aptly apply to another female character in my story?
If you haven’t yet read my first book in the series, grab a copy of False Impressions and let me know what you think.