Film Noir is dark, disconcerting, frustratingly and fascinatingly difficult to define; it creates a world that acts as a dark mirror reflecting a distorted vision of society. The so called classic cycle of film noir is often considered to begin with The Maltese Falcon (1941) and end with A Touch of Evil (1958), and in a simplistic conclusion it was later reborn as neo-noir. Part of the reason that noir is so difficult to define is that it has adapted to incorporate a broad range of genres and styles; it also continues to reappear despite often being considered dead.
The elements of noir include fatalism, a doomed protagonist, the femme fatale, dark highly stylised visuals (which were influenced by German Expressionism), complex narrative structures (including flashbacks and other devices) and a first person voice-over. Classic noir, whether it features the iconic Marlowe style detective or not, is marked by a preoccupation with the dark side and the failure of the American dream. If forties noir is characterised by a kind of bruised romanticism, fifties noir is better described by a hard edged fatalism.