Film Noir Construction Kit

By Jonathan Wallace

You and I live on the margins of some larger organization which is itself on the margins. The place where we live has seen better days. We are not particularly happy with our status and we want to get out. There is no way to get out without money and in order to get it, we decide to become partners with each other in a dangerous enterprise.

The enterprise is to be carried out in ambiguous cooperation with the organization that we depend on and fear. Supposedly they are sponsoring us but we do not trust them. Possibly if we successfully accomplish the mission we will be too big for our britches and will be dealt with accordingly. Or if we succeed, they may decide not to share the proceeds and may kill us. If we fail it is quite certain we will fail alone.

I have known you all my life but I am not completely certain I can trust you. I look into your pale blue eyes and wonder what would really happen if you were carrying a suitcase with the proceeds of our mission and could decide not to share it with me.

On the whole I think that if I had the suitcase I would not cut you out but one can never be certain until one has been in the situation.

There is a woman whom I think I love but I also cannot entirely trust her. She seems to love me but she also likes material things and if we left her alone with the suitcase we cannot be certain what would happen.

In any event, when we look at our surroundings we remember that we want to get out of this place.

We are sitting in a room planning our enterprise and the light is slanting in through the venetian blinds striping our faces: good and evil, good and evil, good and evil.

Your cigarette smoke curls in the air like a question mark.

My woman looks at me with an expressionless face; she too is smoking.

Our lives are a prisoner's dilemma: we must decide whether to cooperate or betray each other.

There is a policeman but we know he is deeply corrupt and we can handle him.

The organization gives us the signal to proceed; the man who transmits it is falsely jolly.

Our enterprise does not proceed exactly the way we planned. Something unexpected happens, and we must commit violence to resolve it. We escape with the suitcase, but one of us is wounded.

The organization distances itself from us because we are being hunted.

We split up and the wounded one goes to ground somewhere where a woman or friend can look after him. The other is alone, waiting for night when it is safe to come out again.

We have made a plan to meet somewhere. The place is huge, dark and cavernous; it is decaying like the rest of the city. The organization will meet us there, ostensibly to receive its cut of the proceeds and to give us something we need: weapons, a vehicle, an escape route.

My woman goes out saying she will be back in an hour and never returns. When I look she has taken all our money from our private stash.

The one of us with the suitcase thinks about leaving but decides not to, either out of a residual loyalty or because he knows that the other, or the organization, will kill his woman or loved ones.

The one of us with the suitcase arrives at the cavernous place and unexpectedly meets the corrupt policeman, who tries to take the suitcase. It is necessary to kill him.

The other of us shows up, and so does the falsely jolly man, with two henchmen. It becomes clear they are there to kill us; as we fight them I am not sure whether or not you plan to kill me as well.

Things slide across the floor: the briefcase, a weapon I throw you when you are out of bullets.

The single light goes out, either because someone shot it out or because it was a flashlight or lantern which crashed to the floor.

In the penultimate scene, when someone lights a candle or strikes a match, we have all been shot; some are dead and some are only wounded. Sirens are heard in the background, coming from the decaying city.

One of us, lying wounded, makes a particularly poignant yet cynical remark.