People will say, ‘There are a million ways to shoot a scene,’ but I don’t think so. I think there’re two, maybe. And the other one is wrong.
A master of the dark, and now surprisingly a social commentator, David Fincher didn’t have the best start to his directing career. The bashed Alien3 didn’t introduce us to the same Fincher that we know now, a man who seems much older than his years, with style that is sleek, dark and thrilling but a nervous, overtly stylized Fincher, who went head to head with movie-execs and seemed to be working out of spite. If he wasn’t packing a hell of a punch with his next film, his career would’ve been just that, two movies and a streamline of music videos, commercials and tv spots.
But what he did shove down the throats of critics after a migtful bashing? Se7en. What’s in the box!!? In my previous post, I hail Fincher as my favourite director, mainly because of his Territoire Foncé, his trifecta of darkness, Se7en-Fight Club-Zodiac, films that all would probably reach my top 20 films of all time. Se7en was something that people got really excited about, they buzzed about it. It was gruesome, it was cruel, it certainly didn’t have a happy ending. Nor do many of Fincher’s films. I myself am a big fan of the tragedy, the Greek kind, where everyone ends up dying or killing themselves at the end; most of the time the happy ending seems like such a cop-out, a desperate cling to the audience at the very end, “please love me”. Fincher doesn’t aim to please, he doesn’t compromise his storytelling, he presents it as is, and let’s people have their own reaction, rather than feeding the Hollywood ideal to them.
After Se7en came The Game, a mystery thriller starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn revolving around the future of gaming, ‘Consumer Recreation Services’. A film that was a tough nut to crack, wider audiences weren’t feeling it getting in their heads. Being an avid thriller and crime series watcher, there’s not many Law and Order episodes where I haven’t guessed the ending in the first few moments, even when it’s the supposedly dead sister whodunnit. Here you’ll never know, and even when you know, you still don’t. Fincher seems to be drawn to stories that don’t have that final solution (similar to Nolan in that way), stories that keep you guessing and filling in the blanks yourself. In a way that’s the best type of director, someone who leaves the audience room to fill up the film with their own ideas, emotions and thoughts.
And then, there was Fight Club, a film that I consider a modern classic, a film that’s very close to being perfect. Fincher continues his love affair with Brad Pitt and brings in the actor that made my love for film even stronger, Ed Norton. The best films come from great pairings, whether it’s actor-actor, or director-actor. Known for making actors do several, even insane amounts of takes, Fincher gets them to bring everything they have to the table.
I tend to not go overboard in my appreciation for some films, I recognise their flaws (because every movie has them) and often play down their triumphs in my head in order to be pleased time and time again with every viewing. But there’s something about Zodiac that makes me forget about all my limitations on how much I should be recommending a movie so that people’s expectations might even remotely live up to my words of appraisal. This is the Zodiac speaking.. It might be my a tad macabre fascination with serial killers and my hopeful career as a criminologist that gave that extra edge in this film for me, but it’s biggest triumphs are in atmosphere and acting. Gyllenhaal and RDJ pull out remarkable stuff in a setting that in other hands could’ve been very limiting; it’s hard to pull the attention away from a random (?) serial killer. True stories are hard, especially when they involve an unsolved murder case, but yet again Fincher brings it home.
I have a philosophy about the two extremes of filmmaking. The first is the “Kubrick way,” where you’re at the end of an alley in which four guys are kicking the shit out of a wino. Hopefully, the audience members will know that such a scenario is morally wrong, even though it’s not presented as if the viewer is the one being beaten up; it’s more as if you’re witnessing an event. Inversely, there’s the “Spielberg way,” where you’re dropped into the middle of the action and you’re going to live the experience vicariously – not only through what’s happening, but through the emotional flow of what people are saying. It’s a much more involved style. I find myself attracted to both styles at different times, but mostly I’m interested in just presenting something and letting people decide for themselves what they want to look at.
Fight Club (1999)
People that don’t “get” Fight Club are no friends of mine. Fincher pulled more brilliance out of an astonishing book by one of my favourite authors. The Norton-Pitt pair remains as one of the best male duos on screen. It holds multiple viewings and it keeps surprising, in a way it’s movie making at its best; there’s no weak parts, technically it’s brilliant and it has edge, flavour.
It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.
As I’ve pointed out before, the serialkiller vs cop genre is extremel close to my heart, and any type of variation is something I’m not going to miss out on. Se7en brought with it a boost to the genre, inspiring others for better and for worse.
Alien³ turned out to be a major disappointment, an unsympathetic sequel to two of the greatest sci-fi horrors of all time. Fincher recites Alien as one of his favourite movies of all time, one of his inspirations, and surely had no intention on delivering .. this. Many had problems with his stylistic decisions, but thankfully his career didn’t end there. Even though many blamed him for ruining the franchise, few can no say it was due to his lack of talent.
Everyone is already getting their knickers in a twist over this one. Fincher is going remake, and not even the kind of acceptable “Let’s remake this 30’s movie in a modern setting” but the “Oh there’s this really awesome foreign movie that Americans won’t see because they don’t like subtitles.. what should we do?”- kind. I’m just going to put it out there, I know this is going to be good. I’m the biggest supporter of Nordic/Scandinavian cinema, and understand the problem that’s underlying this remake, BUT I have all the confidence in the world in both Fincher and Daniel Craig to pull this off. I mean, I’ve seen every crime thriller, detective story to ever come out Sweden, I’ve read every crime novel they’ve done, and believe me, even though the Millenium series is absolutely fantastic, you’re missing so much more. Of course it’s the most shocking and intricate one that’s been done in the past few years, but let’s not pretend that Fincher is comitting some kind of crime here. After seeing this teaser, I’m even more confident that it’s going to work. Besides, Nordic stuff can get really dark and melancholic, and I get that it doesn’t appeal to everyone, that’s why AMC’s The Killing is great and Let Me In worked, they seperated themselves as different works, but stayed true to the original’s wibe, but with different pacing and emphasis.