Melbourne Noir: Shelter in the shadows

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Earlier I have done five short films in black and white tone, however here the challenge was bit different because the challenge was to narrate a story with four images and two videos. Film noir go beyond genre to have an objective reality as a body of movie described by their predicted change of mood and scepticism. Noir is my favourite theme because it should have a stark, high contrast, sharp visuals, and angular shadows. My aim was to introduce a rustic feel to the modern city Melbourne. The main characteristic of my story was the interaction between the photographer and light. When I was thinking about the narrative theme ambiguity and violent death came to my mind.

The biggest problem I faced during the shoot was the lack of sufficient light and unwanted noise in the image. Adequate lighting can bring vibrant and high contrast black shadows to the frame. It is the constant opposition of areas of light and dark that characterises film noir cinematography, stated by Janey Place and Lowell Peterson. As I shot the video with the Mobile phone, the depth of field doesn’t play a significant role in the photos and videos. One of my classmate, Christina Stenseth’s issue, was with the lighting. Most of the scenes shot at night with subtle lighting and with shadows. Street lights are the only source of light and the main action set in the dark street. The characters and the location often give sufficient lighting emphasis. The antagonist hid in the realistic tableau of the city at night, and most of the time his face is blacked out by shadow as he follows. Due to insufficient lighting, the arrangement of space inside the frame was irregular, because of that establishing long shot and the personalised shots were tough.

The Oscar winner Janusz Kaminski, for the film Schindler’s List, he faced a similar lighting issue, and the film was his first feature film directed by Steven Spielberg. Kaminski shot most of the movies in the black and white emulsion; he uses light as symbolism, and it represents quickly. He is a lover of soft lighting and seen throughout the movie. With the help of natural light, he tries to get a soft diffused look, and he ended up in getting a highlight blooming. Detailed study of Kaminski’s lighting style, helped me to realise the mistakes I have made during the framing process. Using natural light and street lights is a better way to get a soft and contrasting look for the objects in the frame.


1. Naremore, James. More than any Night: Film Noir in its Contexts. Berkley and Los Angeles. University of California Press,  1998.

2. J. Walker, Sheldon. “Schindler’s List (1993) – DP: Janusz Kaminski”. Sheldon J. Walker | Cinematographer. N.p., 2017. Web. 15 Mar. 2017.

3. Tsutsumi, Cindy. “Film Noir | Film Noir: Characteristics.”, 2017. Web. 15 Mar. 2017.

4. Christopher, Nicholas. Somewhere in the Night: Film Noir and the American City. New York: The Free Press, Division of Simon & Schuster, 1997

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