Bright Lights Film Journal

Noir’s Positive Animas – The Guardian Angels

In film noir, the anima (a female projection of the male unconscious) often takes the form of a femme fatale, a figure that lures the male protagonist to his doom. But as Bright Lights correspondent Eugenia points out, “There is another type of femme who figures there, a guardian angel type.”

Just as the femme fatale is noir’s negative anima, the guardian angel is noir’s positive anima. Here are a few examples:

Alice Faye with Dana Andrews in Otto Preminger’s Fallen Angel (1945). Andrews plays a con-man and drifter who seduces and marries well-to-do smalltown virgin Faye in order to run off with dark-haired femme fatale Linda Darnell. The title doesn’t refer to either of the women, but to Andrews’ character, a man with suppressed good qualities who is ultimately redeemed by Faye.

Maureen O’Sullivan as the woman who saves Henry Fonda from the electric chair in John Brahm’s Let Us Live (1939). This beautifully lit closeup by cinematographer Lucien Ballard recalls his work with Dietrich and Von Sternberg.
Sean Young as the replicant, Rachel, in Blade Runner (1982). If replicant-hunting Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is himself a replicant – as director Ridley Scott insists – it makes perfect sense that the anima who redeems him would be a female replicant, embodying everything about himself that he denies.
In Luc Besson’s noirishly lit and composed Angel-A (2005), the guardian angel figure is literally … an angel (Rie Rasmussen). In the scene above, she teaches the esteem-challenged protagonist (Jamel Debbouze) to look into a mirror and say, “I love you.”