Dark Passage (1947) as locus of film noir


In 2008 I scratched out some notes on the Bogart and Bacall vehicle Dark Passage in my longhand journal. Those notes seemed just a little too conspiratorial for me, and I did not follow up on them, until they came to mind in the past few days, when I read some other perspectives on film noir that prompted me to reconsider.

What I had written in 2008 was an interpretation of Dark Passage as an allegorical condemnation of the anti-communist witchhunts that began in the US during the later 1940s, and that have never really subsided since that time.

I saw in the film’s first person ‘point of view’, as it was called in the 1940s – the camera showing us what the protagonist sees rather than the actor portraying the protagonist – an earnest attempt to propose to us, the audience, that we are the fugitive. An innocent man accused of murder whose redemption hinges on others telling the truth, but encountering instead a spiteful and relentless persecution, ameliorated only by a handful of decent people, willing to believe in fairness and having the courage to act on that belief, even at great risk to themselves.

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