by Ian Long
1. NEO NOIR IS INTERNATIONAL
We often see Noir as an American form – although it was made in Germany (M, 1931) and France (Pépé le Moko, 1937) years before the classic US era.
As detailed in a recent BBC radio programme, there’s currently an explosion of Noir in the Arab world – particularly Egypt, Morocco, and Algeria.
The themes of Neo Noir can apply to a host of settings.
2. NEO NOIR SUITS CITIES
Neo Noir can be made in many settings, but it thrives on the crammed energy of cities, with their thrusting sense of modernity, money, sex, crime, struggle and corruption.
Some great Neo Noir has come out of mega-metropolises like Rio de Janeiro (CITY OF GOD) and Seoul (A BITTERSWEET LIFE).
Cities give the genre their own special flavour. Where's next? Which city do you want to use as a backdrop for a Noir story?
3. NEO NOIR'S A GREAT VEHICLE FOR POLITICAL THEMES
Noir can shine a light on the gangster ruling classes, oligarchs and kleptocrats which are becoming ever more widespread in our world.
The genre is geared to strip away the facades of organisations, revealing how the wealthy and powerful got where they are and gained what they have.
4. SOMETIMES ITS TARGETS ARE SURPRISING
The shadow side of a squeaky-clean modern society is central to Nordic Noirs like THE KILLING, THE BRIDGE and BORGEN.
Here, a communal rural past has been swapped for a vision of rational, state-planned ‘perfection’ – but one which threatens social and family bonds.
5. MANIFESTOS CAN HELP NOIR CREATIVITY
Ingolf Gabold, head of drama at DR, the public channel responsible for the Danish TV Noirs, used a Dogma-style manifesto to shape his shows.
As well as unifying the company's output and production methods, it put writers firmly at the centre of the creative process.
6. MURDER IS OFTEN THE BEGINNING OF NEO NOIR ...
Tracing the process that's led to the taking of a life is often the pretext for Noir stories, answering the questions of who was involved, and what stood to be gained.
But the narrative can - and must - lead in many directions.
“While the protagonist is solving the case, we get to see every level of society. It’s like cutting a cake with a knife. Each layer is clearly exposed. The crime is only the beginning: we need to see how a whole society works to produce it.” - Egyptian novelist/screenwriter Ahmed Mourad
And we need to ensure that the genre doesn't continue to rely on young women as stock victims.
Many Noirs don't feature deaths or detectives at all.
Because it's the genre of compulsion and self-destruction, it encompasses stories of addiction like REQUIEM FOR A DREAM and THE LOST WEEKEND, and stories set in the gambling world like CASINO and CROUPIER.
7. Noir reaches audiences!
Nordic Noir is a great example of this.
Noir tropes give stories an extra dimension of anxiety and tension, whether they're about crime, sex, addiction, or other compulsions, heightening drama and increasing audience appeal.
And Neo Noir can morph into many different forms to reach its audiences: films, novels, TV series and comics/graphic novels.