Friday, May 4, 2012

Se7en (Fictitious interview with David Fincher discussing conventions of the film)

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A Talk With David Fincher

Good morning David


Your latest work Se7eN has had mixed reviews at the box office. How do you answer to critics who say that the film is nothing more than a shower of insolence that incites violence?

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?Bad reviews have never phased me. Se7eN does contain controversial obtrusive material that is aimed to provoke reaction. There is something slightly off about everything. It?s like a beat that you don?t? dwell upon? but, when you make a collection of them it adds to something, as a total is disturbing because your never sure what is coming next or if it?s significant, or if it?s insignificant because throughout the film the clues and the search for the killer is intertwined with normal, common, everyday things. They?re laced with red herrings if you like. I feel that this is an important aspect of the genre as it?s main purpose is to entertain. I mean if you just pointed out the essentials, then that would give the game away. But if you lace the whole environment, the whole microcosm of the movie with these off beat red herrings, then your not sure where the next revelation is going to come from, and how that revelation will impact upon the plot.?

Yes, you made that all so clear. As you mentioned, the content of Se7eN is highly violent and controversial which has confused many critics on the genre of the film with some categorising it as a crime fiction whilst others labelling it a horror flick. What category would you place the film in?

?Crime fiction. It is definitely a crime fiction film. I guess one could argue that it contains aspects of the horror genre and I did want it to be scary, but it definitely does not conform to the genre as a whole. I mean if we look at it in its entirety, we have two urban detectives investigating a trail of bloody and horrible murders trying to catch a dangerous, cunning villain who in the end lays the plot out for the viewer like an Agatha Christie novel; well sort of.?

You feel that Se7eN is a crime fiction film. Is there any particular section of this genre that the film conforms too?

?In making Se7eN we were attempting to make a modern film noir. We actually went as far as getting Darius Condre (who formally worked on French perfume commercials with David) to do the cinematography? (with laughs) to get that whole French touch. Oh, and he was great too. I can remember on the gluttony scene we were having all sorts of trouble to get the lighting correct, so he suggested letting Brad (Pitt) and Morgan (Freeman) do all the lighting with their flashlights and pieces of reflective cardboard. It worked great, with half of their faces in light and half in darkness- it added a real ominous feel to the scene. You know something is brooding around the corner waiting to pounce upon the unsuspecting detectives? I love that sort of thing.?

Are there any other aspects of Noir present in the film?

?Yeh, heaps. We wanted to make a colour film that was really a black and white feature. We actually did lower scale enhancement (resilvering) to make it look and feel as dark as possible. I just kept on thinking black; I want this thing black- kind of like the ambience present in Malice. We also tried to make the sets feel like they were straight out of a 140 film noir. Take the police station for example. Now we all know what police stations look like in classic film noirs and I did a lot of research into the history of New York City?s police stations. Anyway, we scouted for the location of the police station for what seemed like decades when we finally encountered the Pacific Gas and Electric Building in downtown L.A. We just looked at it and said this is it. It had very low ceilings with these wonderful drop fluorescent fixtures that gave us this fantastically pale light to work with. The building also looked out over sixth street which had a very New York feel to it and the whole place had a very wonderful patina of age and use which was just what we were looking for. All we had to do was make it police like and that involved putting up rooms, partitions- the old wooden glass partitions of the noir aesthetic- and jumbling the place up with old and new desks in our usual manner. It really did look as though Phillip Marlow actually worked there. It was great. Also, within the settings, I wanted to provide an image of a dark and certain world, a world that reflects the morale and social decay of society. To reflect this within the police station we shrewd paper work everywhere to make it seem that the police just weren?t coping with the crime rate. This feel of morale and social decay that is presented many times throughout the film hints to the viewer that they are not in for a happy ending, even if the villain is caught and brought to justice, next week there will be another one, and he will also be followed by another and so on. It?s awful I know, but I love it.?

You?re a bad man David. What conventions of the genre did you attempt to push in the film?

?The detectives. We really tried to push the separate personalities of the two detectives Somerset (Freeman) and Mills (Pitt). I can remember, from the outset, that I really wanted these two personalities to clash; we didn?t want to place the film in that clich�d ?buddy cop? sub genre typified by the Lethal Weapon series. We wanted two very different detectives to give two different perspectives on the murders. Somerset, a detective on the verge of retirement, follows the Sherlock Holmes sleuth hero path. He would rather place all the clues into position before making his move on the suspect. On the other hand we have the wisecracking detective Mills, a new recruit that follows the Phillip Marlow, hard-boiled hero path. I mean this guy just wants to get out on the street and start busting down doors in hope of finding the killer. He is pretty much the antithesis of Somerset- in his crime solving procedure at least. I love the way these two characters clash- it really adds a sort of tension to the film not to mention the two great views we get of the murders and the world around. It also makes for some great dialogue. Take this for example

William Somerset ?This guys methodical, exacting, and worst of all, patient.?

David Mills ?Hes a nut-bag! Just because the fuckers got a library card doesnt make him Yoda!?

(laughs) I love it, I really do. This feeling that conflict is even present in the police station, a place where it is supposed to be halted, really reinforces the decay of the society around them.

Oh, and while we?re on conventions, I also wanted to reinforce the personal danger that became these detectives. I wanted the audience to always have the feeling that death could come to these detectives at any time; I feel it just really adds excitement to the film. This personal danger is personified in the chase scene. This scene is actually the first time the dicks encounter John Doe (the killer). I can remember that I wanted this scene to look chaotic and have kind of a rough cut to it, sort of documentary styled. (Laughs) I can remember Richard (Francis Bruce/Editor) having a dreadful time trying to work out how to cut this sequence. I just kept telling him I want it rough looking, keep it rough. Poor fellow, all he had to work with were these tacky looking handheld camera images mixed in with some very beautiful profiles of Brad and the not yet faced John Doe (Kevin Spacey). He did a great job though, he got just what I was after. I can remember at the start of the scene he did a double cut of Brad and Morgan ducking two bullets fired by John Doe; it really typified the danger of the situation, he has an amazing eye for these sort of things. He put these marvellous snippet cuts of Mills running in one direction, then cutting quickly to Doe running in the other. It made it feel as though Mills was going to meet Doe and get shot. Richard also used a lot of our jerky point of views which, if the viewer is quick, can just see the killer either ducking behind a corner or lining Mills up in the sight of his pistol. All this with Ren?s (Ren Clise/Sound Designer) climatical musical accompaniment of a romantic brass and string section, really heightens tension. We were really aiming to give at least one person per cinema a heart attack.?

Well seeing that you just confessed to attempted murder, I think we?ll leave it there. Thanks for your time David.

?It?s been a pleasure.?

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