//Breakouts and Outbreaks: David Fincher with ‘Se7en’

Breakouts and Outbreaks: David Fincher with ‘Se7en’

With rave reviews flying left and right, The Social Network is finally here. It’s time to take one last trip back and see the roots of the critically claimed auteur, with his initial feature Se7en. No I don’t count Alien 3 and will not be reviewing it. Fincher has more or less disowned the film and so will I. As I see it Se7en was the first film that gave Fincher the freedom to control his own movie; the results are stunning. Many still consider it to be his masterpiece and it has been labeled as the only serious rival to The Silence of the Lambs. Honestly, I don’t’ go that far. The film is not a transcendent, groundbreaking piece of work. But it is the first feature film that headlined the talent of David Fincher. When I set about writing a review for the film, I came to the obvious realization that this is in fact a breakout performance. And what better way to celebrate Fincher’s career on this day than honoring his entire career through this film? This is the outbreak of David Fincher.

While Se7en has a contemporary setting, the tone and visuals suggest the 1940s. This is likely a deliberate throwback to noir detective stories, which is essentially what Se7en is. It is a traditional noir story enthralled with the graphic and explicit darkness of the “New Hollywood” movement. In some ways, it reminds me of Chinatown. Except that in this case, the explicit nature verges the film into the horror genre. Fincher does not refrain from showing each of the seven deadly sins in its infinite glory, a visual representation that does their religious background justice.

The basic plotline is about a serial killer that selects his targets and his method of murder in accordance with the seven deadly sins. The murderer himself is not seen very often. Although it is a great bit part for Kevin Spacey whose typical homeliness is abandoned in favor of out-right creepiness with his eerie smile. Brad Pitt is a young, married, on-the-rise cop that takes on the case with the assistance of the old, wise Morgan Freeman. The film is a bloody montage of terrifying imagery (most notably the living victim’s surge to life) that is surprisingly subtle in delivery. The horror is there, but it is all done with eloquence and respect to its characters. Fincher crafted a solid addition to a challenging genre in one shot. Granted, his own Zodiac would later surpass it in flying colors; Se7en is as strong of a breakthrough as any director is likely to have and it showcased two of the director’s defining features.This feature is his stubbornness as a director.

Fincher has the reputation of a hardass, and near as I can tell, it is a reputation he has earned. He has mentioned in interviews that if an actor is not following his instructions he sits back and lets them do the scene incorrectly until they get tired enough to ask what he wants of them. With The Social Network, not out of frustration, but out of perfectionism, he reportedly shot the opening sequence 99 times. Anal may be a subtle word, but it really indicates his devotion to his work.

 He has repeatedly struggled with production companies regarding cutting his films. With Zodiac, this even caused a delayed release. But it pays off; the director’s cut version has only two extra minutes. He gets his films the way he wants them. He struggled with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as well, although maybe that one should have been cut. But regardless of personal opinions, it is respectable that he works to produce the films that he wants. With Se7en, the struggle was fighting to keep the controversial ending. He won by having it mandated in Pitt’s contract that they could not change the ending, as the studio so desired. That ending now stands as the most memorable moment of the film, the icing on the cake. It is the brilliant revelation that our heroes are in fact not the opposition of the enemy’s plan, but part of the plan itself. It is horrifying, brilliant, and unpredictable.

Se7en also represents the first of the three collaborations between Brad Pitt and David Fincher. Both are talented artists that respect their medium, but also work in a mainstream setting. While I have mentioned three strong performances in the film, it is Brad Pitt that this movie is really about. As a second feature of Fincher’s work, Se7en represents a study of a troubled individual. Pitt’s obsession and motivation is torn down as he tries to be the ideal, young cop. This obsession and failure aligns with Michael Douglas in The Game and Edward Norton in Fight Club. All three exemplify failed lifestyles from traditional workplaces, be it law enforcement, business, or corporate slavery. Further comparisons could be made to Benjamin Button’s struggles and of course, Robert Graysmith’s obsession. Fincher is a thematic director, simple as that. And Se7en is an introduction, not just to his visual style, not just to his work with Brad Pitt, but a glimpse into the career we have since seen him produce and will, in all likelihood, continue to see.                                               

I won’t try to pick a favorite of Fincher’s films, not with The Social Network so fresh in mind. It all needs time to settle and gain retrospective. That said, he has certainly produced several A-list films, Zodiac and Fight Club being two that I will always enjoy. He has style, personality, devotion, and variety. David Fincher is an auteur. An auteur whose career was jump started by a seminal serial killer film and has lasted a decade and a half.

I’d imagine many of you are getting tired of the David Fincher coverage: “Will Social Network win best picture?” “Is it a masterpiece?” “Armond White wrote a negative review!” “Is The Social Network the next Citizen Kane?” “Does it define our decade?” “Our generation?”

It really can be repetitive and annoying and I have chosen not to address these issues, but the bottom line is that this concludes my month and a half David Fincher series. He is talented; he is one Hollywood’s very best, active directors and a true artist. With The Social Network out in the open, it’s time to start back at page one: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo!

Davin was born in Ohio, lives in Wisconsin, attends a university in Oregon, and previously lived in Asia. Yet despite all this adventurous traveling, he spends most of his time away from reality...Full Bio.