Under the Whirl of the Ceiling Fan

You turn on the TV. You see a room in shadows. A man in a suit and a slender young woman speak in hushed tones. Slowly, above their heads, a ceiling fan turns. You have probably happened upon a classic movie made in the Film Noir style.

Neo Noir Scene From Blade Runner

What is Film Noir?

Film Noir was primarily made in America in the 1940s. These films were generally downbeat and gritty – and created under the constraints of very tight budgets. They relied on dramatic lighting and complex plots to create a dark world of danger and ambiguity. The main characters were often criminals or ‘average Joes’ who stumbled into problems that they couldn’t extract themselves from, growing ever more panicked. The visual style of these films is dark and high contrast, making use of long, sharply-defined shadows, tilted camera angles and black frames, creating an overall feeling that is nocturnal, unsettled and sometimes dreamlike.

Ceiling fans are often used in Film Noir to help create this surrealistic world. The blades of the fan cast long shadows that can rotate across a wall, a face, or a body. A ceiling fan can make a scene appear distorted, as the light comes and goes. We all associate ceiling fans with heat, and it’s no different in Film Noir. Fans are staples of Film Noir scenes in the kind of hot, humid locales that mid-century Americans found a little exotic and a little scary: a chaotic city in Mexico or a run-down old motel in the Florida keys.

These films continue to inspire filmmakers around the world today, and the fact remains: nothing casts dramatic shadows like a ceiling fan.

Ceiling Fans in Other Films and On TV

You will also see ceiling fans in other films and on television programs, too. They may be used as a device to show the viewer it’s summer time or just a generally hot day. In a more abstract, symbolic sense, ceiling fans can be used to show repetition; a fan whirls around and around without end. It may help frame a scene or symbolise that something that’s happening has happened before. It is amazing what one prop in a film can represent.

A fan draws your eye in a film just as it does in real life. Ceiling fans can be mesmerising. When you watch a film and see a fan turning, you can imagine the heat those characters are feeling. You can feel the cool air that the ceiling fan is providing on your own skin. It really helps draw you into the story.

Of course, we here at Ceiling Fans Direct notice every fan in every film we see. We’ve been selling fans for more than 15 years, but ceiling fans themselves have been around for more than 150 years. Next time you’re watching a movie, whether it’s Film Noir or another style, notice the fans and think about what they mean.

If you’d like to add a touch of Film Noir to your home, browse our collection of ceiling fans. We provide some of the most popular traditional designs, as well as contemporary designs that look fantastic in any setting.