Juliya Stafeyeva ENG 3270, BMWA Prof. Taylor The Maltese Falcon is the classic hardboiled private-eyed movie that is a great example of prototypical film noir. The main character Sam Spade is undeniably a tough and smart guy whose actions are provoked by a stunning femme fatale Brigid O’Shaughnessy. While everyone in the story eagers to find a priceless artifact, the black statuette of a Maltese Falcon, and is driven by their greed, Spade acts as he is to fulfill his own personal code of honor often ignoring the law.
He knows how to handle the police, and he is good at revealing thieves and liars, yet inflicts pain upon himself and his loved one in the process. The belief that love can conquer all is certainly does not apply to Spade’s worldview. John Huston, the director of The Maltese Falcon, combined Hollywood techniques with elements of German Expressionism to create a style that is composed of dramatic shadows, dim light, and the kind of atmosphere that goes along with dark plots and shady characters.
The street scenes are in the darkness of night and, with the exception of Spade’s office, few sets are well-lighted. Such emphasis on the use of light combined with interesting camera angles create an off-balance feel to the world and portrays the dark side of human nature with cynicism and duplicity. Kasper Gutman, for example, is often shot from below, so he occupies the space and towers over the other people in the scene, indicating his power and domination.
The effective use of music, lighting and camera creates a dramatic and frightening atmosphere in the scene when Spade stands on the promenade looking down at the Archer’s dead body. Despite the overall visual darkness of The Maltese Falcon, it is not a depressing film due to its liveliness and acceleration along with the characters’ use of humor in dialogues. Viewers get engaged with the rhythm of the film and even the pessimistic ending does not invoke disappointment or sadness.