How Does ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice’ Conform To Standard Conventions of Film Noir?

The Postman always rings twice is a 1946 film noir starring Lara Turner (Cora Smith) and John Garfield (Frank Chambers). The film follows the story of Frank, a poor man who stops at a local diner for dinner and ends up working there. He meets the young woman Cora who is married the to the much older Nick. She is very discontent there as she does not want to be married to nick but wants to own the diner. The film then follows the very complex plot about how the two plot to kill Nick but ultimately fail and run away. However, they do eventually succeed. Despite this- Cora dies in a car crash with Frank driving. Frank ends up being prosecuted as it looks like the crash was intentional. Facing the death penalty he realises he is just facing the punishment of the crime he committed to killing Nick. In his self-pity, he does not hear the postman ring the first time- but he will ultimately ring again which will always be heard. This postman can be likened to death.

This film conforms to the typical conventions of film noir for many reasons. Firstly the film utilises the typical role of the femme fatal in Cora. She will use her own sexuality in order to manipulate the vulnerable character (Frank) for her own gain. Although the fact
that this makes her malignant and uncaring- they will always meet an untimely demise, however, this also helps bring about the

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Lana Turner as Cora Smith

the downfall of Frank. Another typical aspect of film noir used in her character is the choice of cinematography. One of the first times she appears in the film a close up of her legs is used which then cuts to Frank’s look of awe. Many other films of the genre are likely to use this trait in order to sexualise the female character.

 

Another trait of film noir is the use of long takes. Frequently in this film characters will be placed in the foreground looking passed the camera, with the character they are talking to standing behind them. This way the audience can see both of their faces and this one shot can be used throughout the scene- making the production of the film cheaper

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Use of the foreground and background

and easier.

 

Furthermore many noir films will use artistic and minimal lighting for effect. Objects such as Venetian blinds or bars will be used to cast long shadows onto the shot in order to darken the audiences viewpoint. This, in turn, will place more emphasis on the characters themselves rather than what’s around them, as well as masking the simple sets that had been produced.

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Iron Bars casting shadows over Frank

Overall it is clear to see that only after a short time studying the genre- there are already clear typical expectations of a noir film. In this film alone the archetype of the femme fatal character in Cora is present alongside the victim of Frank Chambers. The story will not be resolved in a happy ending- with a serious message to go alongside it. Upon further study of the genre, there are probably even more typical conventions present in this film. Therefore,
it should be important to come back and refer to it further into the course.

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