Tuesday, May 25, 2010
What's In The Box: Revisiting Se7en
I decided to rewatch David Fincher's Se7en today. Spur of the moment it was, it just popped up in my head. I've always really loved that movie, but I was actually intrigued to see how it held up after 15 years and a good five years or so since I last watched it. Thankfully, silly title and all, the movie remains very good, but I doubt that, if I saw it for the first time today, I would have been quite as enthusiastic as I was years ago.
Se7en retains its status as one of the most original serial killer movies, I think that's safe to say. It would also rank as one of the best thrillers ever made, too, but I have some issues. The setting is, at times, too dank for its own good. As atmospheric as it is, especially when set to Howard Shore's score, there's something unappealing about making this already quite sick tale even more nauseating. The film's best scene for me is the entirety of the third act, and it works so well because it breaks out from the oppressive scenery that has engulfed the rest of the film by that point. It's like my eyes are being rewarded. There's only so many dilapidated buildings, dripping ceilings and exposed wires I can look at. Typing that out sounds so silly since I'm writing about a movie that features one of the most disturbing scenes I have ever watched ("Sloth", naturally).
As far as negatives go, however, I really do think that's about it. Sure, I might have cared for a little bit less of the Morgan Freeman is a sad sack stuff, but it is at least there for advance the film and not to just make audiences miserable. This time around I noticed for a film noir influence, especially in the character of Somerset, with his fedora hat and droll quips and his monotone narration. His character's one-week-until-retirement-i-hope-i-don't-die situation is, perhaps, on the nose, but at least they didn't make Brad Pitt's character a fresh-faced rookie and went out of their way to make us aware that he has been doing this for many years. It helps to flesh out Pitt's character who, at times, comes off as more childish than anything else.
I do wonder how it would go if made today. Would it be gorier? Would they focus on the killings much more than they did in 1995, and if they did would they be portrayed as sadistically as one imagines they would be?
Speaking of focusing on the murders, I also found it interested watching Se7en for the first time since having seen David Fincher's other serial killer movie, Zodiac from 2007, that they are opposites of sorts. In Se7en we don't actually see any of the truly grisly torturous parts and the film goes out of its way to be as thorough as possible, whereas Zodiac shows the murders in intricate detail and also never quite resolves anything. While I'm not sure what that says about Fincher, I think it makes a fascinating study nonetheless. Another opposing method can be found in the characters played by Kevin Spacey and John Carroll Lynch. Whether you believe the latter is the Zodiac killer or not is besides the point, the film sure wants to position Lynch as it, and in that regard he is very much the opposite of Spacey's "John Doe". One is obvious, the other vague, and they each go to reaffirm what kind of movies they are in.
Se7en is far more "traditional" in the sense that it has its beginning, middle and end and everything it does it does well. Zodiac, as I remember it, does everything well, but "everything" isn't necessarily everything that makes a compelling movie. I really liked Zodiac, don't get me wrong, but I think it's worth noting that Se7en was a big box office hit whereas Zodiac was not and the latter eschews many conventions that make a popular movie. Did David Fincher deliberately make Zodiac as a reply to Se7en? Did he want to give the finger to people who had followed him into rather mainstream territory on films such as Se7en and Panic Room by throwing them a curveball that they couldn't see coming? If that's the case how does one explain The Curious Case of Benjamin Button?
And while we're on the issue of Fincher, his career is both fascinating and increasingly worrisome. He has The Social Network with Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake out later this year, but after that who knows. According to IMDb he is attached to 12 titles some of which include an American adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a remake of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and something called Black Hole, which I can only assume is a science fiction movie. You certainly cast say he's lazy, but I hope he can churn out something as original and riveting as Se7en again soon.