Dynamic grand narratives pull an audience through the, this is where it started, here is where we went, then this happened, and my grandmother was …but then we moved over here and now ….I found love after many tribunals and whew…….we are happily ever and after. In film this can be done in montage / flashbacks or instructive linear story telling. Think “Grapes of Wrath” or “Gone with the Wind”. You have not only generations but weather and location variations that gives you years and layers of story.
Noir……does a lot of things in a more compact and structured way. It thrives on moments, telling one small portion of a characters story most often with very little background or future outlines. We are here, now. We are various levels of gray-scale. But never really black nor white. Everyone lives either just into the dark or just into the light. Add some stockings, an A-line skirt and several tilted fedoras, well, Baby, you’ve got something. Think “Laura” or “Double Indemnity”.
A lot of film writers dig deeper in to the moral ambiguity of Noir that works so well it has traveled into every film and television show currently being made; think about all the shadows and half lite faces in television shows. I’ve never seen a cop shop or office building with so many dark corners ?? The set of Law & Order seems to have run out of florescent tubes. Only rarely do we find a character now that doesn’t ride that I did wrong for the right reasons train. ….Yet, my point is …its a complete alteration of story telling from the Grand Narrative of epics, “Clash of the Titans” for example that tell you a generational story towards a post-modern viewpoint that includes only what happened on that Tuesday in November to my friend Sam Spade in “The Maltese Falcon”.
Current film (and television) is attempting to combine these techniques into a grand narrative, “Gotham”, with segment story-lines with shadowy visuals “Arrow” & “CSI” along with I’m the bad guy with a good reason “Blindspot”, “The Walking Dead”, narratives.
Its like we are torn between how history deeply affects us and the here and now is all that matters. Instant gratification OR thoughtful studied examination?