There’s not really much to be said about Se7en (is it ‘Seven’ or ‘Se7en’ anyway?)– it is David Fincher’s dark masterpiece, a film up there with the very best films of all time.
Having recently watched Fight Club due to enjoying the first season of Mr Robot (which shares much of its themes and content with Fincher’s film), it was no doubt inevitable that I’d then be reaching for this particular blu-ray. It is a dark, mesmerising thriller, so perfect it almost hurts. Well, I say perfect but it does go a little off the rails towards the end… did I just write that? It feels like a sin… no, it’s just that after the finer-executed, intense ‘sins’ we see created earlier in the film, the ‘lust’ one feels forced somehow. It doesn’t work, it pales compared to the others, almost descending into some standard melodramatic potboiler/horror mash-up, but it’s easily forgiven, as everything else in the film oozes perfection. Maybe that ‘lust’ sequence, and the casting of Spacey, maybe, just maybe is the film bending to more mainstream genre conventions, I don’t know, but other than that, this film is truly great: thats Great with a capital ‘G’. The acting, the photography, the make-up, the music, the art direction… it’s a dark, twisted work of art, superior film-making indeed, and almost perverse perfection.
The rain never ends. There is seldom any sunlight, or any warmth. The city feels like a city of the damned, as if its denizens are souls trapped in some circle of hell from which there is no escape. A feeling of dread pervades everything; there is never any inclination that anything remotely like justice or hope or salvation is even possible here. There is a feeling that we are watching a film from the ‘seventies, where characters seem like real people and their world is as real as ours, when anything is possible, even a bad ending, an inconclusive ending, a disturbing ending. It’s a scary thing. It’s never anything remotely like an ordinary contemporary thriller (except maybe during that aforementioned ‘lust’ section).
Its like a bad dream, one returned to everytime we rewatch it. Watching this film I often think back on Alien 3 and its own horrible flawed beauty, and wonder what Alien 3 might have been had Fincher been left to make it unmolested by the studio suits. After the failure of Alien 3 (a film I always liked, even the ‘faulty’ original cinema cut), Se7en had an incredible impact, a sense of revelation, vindication. Here Fincher seems to be in control over everything, and the results show. Yes it’s all style and atmosphere but…to criticise the film for that, almost feels like missing the point- it’s so integral to the piece, the atmosphere is actually one of the films characters, like the production design is in Blade Runner. Se7en is something very close to perfect.
4 thoughts on “Se7en (1995)”
I think the part where you talk about “the city feels like a city of the damned”, etc, hits an oft-missed nail on the head about Se7en. There’s a certain kind of fantasy/sci-fi feeling to that city, where it’s always miserable and raining as if it’s trapped in some temporal bubble. Obviously there’s no SF/F element in play, because it’s nowhere else in the film (well, you could argue the religious motivation is, but it’s not like John Doe thinks he’s possessed by a demon and the film plays a “maybe he is?” game with us), and I think that’s why that side of it goes overlooked — it kind of feels supernatural, but it isn’t supernatural, so you miss it and it just kind of contributes to the overall oppressive, inescapable, dark mood.
Until the end when they finally get out of the city, it always reminds me of Dark City, funnily enough. There’s something not quite real, something timeless and dreamlike (nightmare-like?) about it. I guess it’s all that atmosphere that drenches everything- it reminds me of Blade Runner that way much of the time too (and everytime I watch Se7en I think how perfect Fincher would be shooting a Blade Runner sequel).
Another Blade Runner similarity- just as Blade Runner is flawed but remains Ridley Scott’s masterpiece, I think Se7en, flawed as it may be too, remains Fincher’s masterpiece. There is something in each film, something of each director’s personalities I think, that edge each of them from mainstream towards the arthouse arena.
Both films are a real showcase for how a strong directorial/authorial vision can turn something that could be very generic (because, broken down to their basic plots, Blade Runner and Se7en could both be pretty run-of-the-mill genre movies) into something artistic. It’s almost combining mainstream and arthouse, in that respect.
I’d never really thought of the two films in direct comparison before, but I rather suspect there’d actually be a lot of similarities to dig out, if one wanted.
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