|Manhattan from the air opening The Naked City.|
Landscape in this article is employed in its meaning of a point of view from which a subject is able to “command a view of the country stretching out beneath him and thereby exert control over” [Fabricant, C., cit. in Wallach, A. (2008) Between Subject and Object. In DeLue, R. Z., and Elkins, J., Landscape Theory. London: Routledge. pp. 317-8]. But, this precise understanding of landscape gravitates towards the cityscape, as the centre of power, and, in noir, landscape starts from it. Cityscape present itself on different scales, framing only a single building or a street intersection, up to the entire city horizon seen from a hill or surveyed from an airplane. The aerial views were introduced to a wider public during the war, through the newsreels which used shots of destroyed cities seen from above. On the other hand, during the postwar period, aerial photography becomes one of the key instruments in the city planning. A couple of decades later, aerial surveillance via helicopters becomes a key instrument of the Los Angeles Police Department as well [Davis, M. (1990) City of Quartz. London, New York: Verso. pp. 265-322], and correspondingly, an important formal element in a number of police films from the 1970s on. In film noir, instead, the aerial vision of the city is never perfectly correlated with the total command of the space below. The view is never entirely perpendicular to the soil, satellite-like, instead the viewing angle allows for perception of volumes to some extent, thus, people are not just moving dots, and cars are not abstract rectangles. This kind of image is apt for the intricate play of shadows which are used to convey the drama of modern city life, and, more importantly to our context, the angle of view and the shadows do not allow for everything to be scanned, thus, mapped. But this is not a given, as vectors of mapping are operating, too, and they put in question this romanticised vision of the city and attempt to reduce it to the grid. This relationship is the leitmotif of what follows.