Dark mirror: Constructions of the femme fatale in Weimar film and Hollywood film noir.
Committee ChairKosta, Barbara
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe femme fatale is a marker for the past is evident in the film noir work of German exile directors. These directors created a femme fatale character similar to Weimar examples of the sexual woman icon, using Weimar cultural constructions as a template for their work in Hollywood. The femme fatale figure in film noir is specifically an enigma or duplicitous mystery, a woman with a gun who threatens the male protagonist. She represents a piece of the male character's past often seen through the structure of the voice-over and flashback. These narrative devices enable the male protagonist to rework this jaded past vis-a-vis his relationship to the femme fatale and his fatal attraction to her. The film noir femme fatale is linked to German exile directors' desire to review a past that has been lost and cannot be recuperated. In the case of the Weimar femme fatale, she is a sign for the trauma of World War I and the ensuing political/social crises of the Weimar republic. The femme fatale in her castrating capacity is a marker for historical upheaval and male subjectivity in flux. She is ultimately the scapegoat for male questions of self and a split subjectivity brought on by historical events such as war and the experience of exile. Her various guises include the criminal woman, the technological entity, and the double.
Degree ProgramComparative Cultural and Literary Studies