For your final assignment in this unit, you will write a critical essay on The Maltese Falcon (dir. John Huston, 1941), exploring how it exemplifies the characteristics of film noir as a genre. As part of your critical exploration you will need to analyze how the film draws upon and adapts material from its source text: the novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett. You are also strongly encouraged to compare and contrast evidence from another example of film noir, Double Indemnity (dir. Billy Wilder, 1944) to sharpen your insight into how specific filmmaking techniques of film noir are used in The Maltese Falcon.
This is an exploratory essay, not a thesis-driven essay. This means that I dont want you to announce a clearcut thesis in advance and set out to prove it. Your essay needs to build up to a clear conclusion about what you find in your analysis, but I dont want you to predict in advance what that conclusion will be.
Early in your essay you should develop a working definition of film noir. You may begin by quoting a standard definition (I will be introducing some of these to you in class on Thursday, Nov 18), but make sure to add your own insight to this definition. Feel free to modify it to conform to your own understanding of the genre.
In the body of your analysis you should explore how The Maltese Falcon exemplifies specific features of your definition of film noir. Your analysis should answer the following questions:
How does the narrative of the film (including elements like plot, setting, and characterization) exemplify film noir as a genre?
How does the style of the film exemplify film noir as a genre? In this part of your analysis you should reference specific filmmaking techniques (e.g. lighting, composition, cinematography) that produce the stylistic effects you describe. I expect you will primarily focus on visual style, but feel free to deal with other aspects, like sound.
How does this film noir draw upon and adapt its source text? Why is Hammetts novel a suitable text to turn into a film noir? Where do the filmmakers need to adapt and modify the novel? Make sure to ground this discussion in close textual analysis of Hammetts novel in comparison with specific moments in the film.
Your essay should culminate in a concluding paragraph/s where you bring together all your findings, and synthesize them into a conclusion that leaves your reader with a clear sense of the concrete and significant insights they can take away from your essay.
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