Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Se7en (1995)

In this film-loving series we look at movies from all over the cinematic time line and in each genre pool to select a shot that particularly resonates with us, be it for aesthetic, thematic or for simply eye candy reasons.

This week we look back at David Fincher's breakthrough hit, Se7en (1995) which celebrates its 15th anniversary today. It happens to be my favorite serial killer picture ever, though I should note that its only real competition is Silence of the Lambs since this is an overstuffed genre with few actual classics.

Se7en's opening credits were an instant classic of the form and unfortunately so duplicated thereafter that the jarring edits, mental/visual derangements and perfect rock track probably feel like clichés to young viewers. But Se7en absolutely unnerved when it hit in 1995. My favorite shot comes about 80 minutes in when Detective Mills (Brad Pitt) and Detective Lt. Somerset (Morgan Freeman) finally discover John Doe's (Kevin Spacey) lair, the very place those opening credits would call home sweet sick home. After some creative corner-cutting search warrant business, begin to investigate its secrets.

Se7en, like all of David Fincher's work, is meticulously designed and this one in particular is just gorgeously shot. I consider it cinematographer Darius Khondji's best feature work and his omission from the Oscar line up that year was a real shame. That's not actually a split screen. Fincher and Khondji have made awesome use of the multi-room apartment set and smartly blocked the actors. For a brief moment before the detectives separate and cross cutting and horrible discoveries begin, we see them both searching different spaces simultaneously. There's multiple light sources and pockets of saturated color, Somerset's room has cool colors and Mills hallway is hot, rather like the personalities that make up this fractious partnership. But despite multiple lights, colors and faux split screen, the image is never muddied or chaotic, just darkly foreboding and dynamically alive both literally (the movement of the flashlight) and figuratively (what horrors lurk in these rooms?). In this shot, Mills and Somerset are almost shining their flashlights at each other, but as always they're seeing things differently.

Incidentally this is my favorite Brad Pitt performance outside of Fight Club. It's full of the kind of masculine anguish and wounded bird magnetism that's Leonardo DiCaprio's bread and butter these days. Brad went the extra mile... that broken left wing is his own.

6 More Deadly Sinners. That Makes Se7en
  • Brown Okinawa... looks at how attached Detective Somerset is to his job.
  • Serious Film... appreciates the craftsmanship and thinks Se7en lingers.
  • El Fanatico... gets creative like John Doe's books. Check out all these shot groupings.
  • Stale Popcorn... chooses seven deadly shots. Well, one is life-affirming.
  • Sketchy Details... absolves the detectives of their sins.
  • Plakatay... lives in the shadows.
 Other Films in This Series

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