What kind of films do you like? Action, drama, horror, romance, comedy? We all like various film styles for various reasons. My favorite film style is noir. No, that is not a misspelling. My favorite film style is noir. What is noir? That is one of the unique things about this film genre; it is not easy to define. Many who are fans of these movies will tell you that there is always debate about what films are and are not noir. Even defining this film category is not an easy task. Even still, let me make an attempt: they are dark movies both thematically and cinematically primarily filmed in the 40s and 50s.
The scenes were dark with silhouettes, shadows, hazy smoke and close ups to show facial expressions. The stories were just as dark as the cinematography. You usually did not have your typical happy endings you may hope for while watching it. The hero doesn’t win because there is usually no hero present in the movie. The term noir is a french word meaning black or dark film. It was from these movies that the Femme Fatale character came to existence. To summarize, the main character is always in trouble and the more they try to get out of it, the more they keep getting into more trouble. They always start innocently enough. They are just like you and me. Yet one bad decision starts a downfall into a pit with no bottom. There is no escaping. It is a perpetual case of the Mondays times ten!
Whether it is gas station owner Jeff Bailey trying to escape his former life in Out Of The Past. Or drifter Frank Chambers getting entangled in adultery, stealing and murder in The Post Man Always Rings Twice. Then there is Laurel Gray in In A Lonely Place, who begins to date a writer. Then she can not escape the tension and strain of their relationship as he has a violent temper and is suspected of murder. Another great example of noir is insurance agent John Forbes in Pitfall. When he goes too far to help a client, it costs him his marriage, career, family and someone’s life. There is also the innocent aging boxer, Bill “Stoker” Thompson in The Setup. He did all that he could to escape a fixed fight only to his own detriment. Don’t forget the sailor Michael O’Hara who gets caught in a frame for the murder of his boss. Then there is Louise Howell who is so obsessed with her ex-lover that it drives her insane and ends up in a psychiatric hospital.
This is a taste of film noir. Average innocent people, getting sucked into the gutter. A band leader ends up in jail. An Army veteran is hunted down and killed. A detective goes on a vengeful killing spree. A single woman is entangled in espionage against the U.S. in Rio. An ex-boxer gets caught up in a payroll robbery. A young cute married couple that keeps getting sucked into a life of crime they don’t want. And on, and on, and on.
Not exactly encouraging movies, are they? Just makes you want to grab a bowl of popcorn and your favorite blanket, huh? Why do I like these movies so much? I guess because I can relate to the characters. These are ordinary people that get entangled in their sinful actions. And then when they try and fix things, they just get into more trouble. Oh sure, you may not have an affair or land in jail like in the movies. But have you not gotten into trouble before by something you said? Maybe you blurted out something and regretted it as soon as it left your lips? And then when you try and fix it, but saying something else, it only makes it worse! Have you not had sinful thoughts in your mind that you can’t seem to escape? They always seem to appear when you are trying to pray, read the bible or listen to the pastor preach. You didn’t invite these thoughts. You were minding your own business. But now the more you try and think of something else the more you’re fixated on the sin! Have you not been entangled in your emotions before? Whether it is fear, anger, lust or anxiety? They swell up from within, with no warning .And no matter what you do, you can’t seem to change how you feel!
While we may not do the horrible things we see in these movies, we still entrap ourselves with our sins. It is like a web that sticks to us. No matter what we do, the sin is there and our attempts of escape make things worse. The more we fight against it, the tighter it pulls around us. This is what the author of Hebrews had in mind when he talked about our sin so easily entangling us and clinging to us (Hebrews 12:1). That is what sin is…sticky. And the more you fight it, the more entangled and knotted up you get! Just like the characters in these noir movies.
But unlike in these movies, there doesn’t have to be an unhappy ending. We can never free ourselves from our entanglements, but Jesus can! As Paul rightly says, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25a) He is one that can lift us out of our darkness and into the light. He is the one that can cut through and unwrap us from the sticky sin in our lives. I know how you feel about getting all caught up in your sin. So turn to Christ so you can free yourself from all that ensnares you.