Tuesday, 22 March 2016

I've Just Seen: Se7en (1995)

Se7en (1995)


Director: David Fincher

Fincher's films often have a coolness to their tone that contrasts nicely with their often extreme and pulpy subjects. Here it aligns us with Morgan Freeman's William Somerset, weary of his job and looking forward to retirement from years in the police force. His last case has him paired with Brad Pitt's younger and more hot-tempered David Mills. While this set-up sounds cliched, the script, direction, and performances elevate the material, making it a deserved 90s classic.

Freeman is the standout for me, playing everything, even the denouement, in a low-key fashion that draws you towards his character. The man carries visible emotional pain from his past, but we never learn precisely what it is. It is hinted at in his conversation with Paltrow's Tracy, but we are left to create his history from a few comments. Pitt is also good, grappling with this twisted case as he tries to adjust to the city.

The idea of the seven deadly sins forming the theme of the serial killings is less shocking these days, as many television crime shows have followed in the footsteps of Andrew Kevin Walker's script. However, the Biblical imagery is also present in the weather of the unnamed city, the Mills' apartment, and the desert of the final showdown. It seems to be always raining in the town, torrents of water falling on the moral decay of this city. Whether it is trying to flush it away, or aids in its decay is debatable. The Mills' home is so close to a train track, so it shudders every few minutes, like an earthquake that threatens to bring their new life crashing down. The desert setting of the famous climax is a wonderful contrast to the city; dry, hot and sunny, with large electrical towers and nothing else. One can almost feel the crackling in the air as Somerset and Mills are toyed with by Doe.

A great film that has lost only a little of its impact in the last few decades (can you believe it is twenty years old!).


  1. This one is a personal favorite. The idea of the rain washing away the filth or adding to the rot is not the reading I gave the rain, but it's difficult to disagree with either interpretation. For me, the fact that there is nothing but rain and darkness through the entirety of the film is a nod toward how "in the dark" Mills and Somerset are. And then, at the end when everything is revealed, everything is in bright sunlight.

    Actually, I think all of those readings work pretty well!

    What makes Seven so memorable for me is just how horrible so many of the crimes are and how horribly they are remembered, but Fincher shows us almost nothing. Drops of blood, photographs of the murder weapons...almost everything is implied and it works so much more because we see almost nothing but are spared nothing as well.

    1. That's a good point you make about the murders. Looking back, yes, we didn't see any great detail. A bit like Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Audience imagination once again used well!

  2. At the time it was released Brad Pitt was at his peak as teenage girl idol. In the cinema the front rows were crowded with young girls there to watch their idol. Many of them were gone by the halfway mark. Frankly I was also pretty grossed out by it and I have never really come to terms with it.

    1. Oh dear! This would definitely have not worked for that audience.

      Interesting that you were (and still are) grossed out, but as SJHoneywell pointed out, we see only a little, but enough to fuel our imaginations.