A perspective on the latest film in the director’s filmography.
May 8, 2021
Warning: This article spoils the ending of Mank.
There’s little doubt that David Fincher and many of the characters he’s interested in — detectives, investigative journalists, screenwriters — are concerned with the search for truth. A point repeatedly raised is how attainable truth really is. What if, asks Zodiac (2007), at the end of years of research, the truth remains, and will always remain, out of reach? What if, in The Social Network (2010), we approach the truth of the main character’s motivations by way of a variety of angles, depositions, and second-hand accounts, but leave significant gaps in that truth that linger beyond the final frame? What would be the effect on audiences? The concern with truth and with the lack of it runs through so much of the director’s work.
From that concern with attainability of truth, the negative inference that might follow when watching these films is that we can’t hope to know a great deal about anything or anyone. In highlighting people who are grasping in the dark and who, as a result, see their obsessive or destructive sides come out, Fincher’s films can be troubling. But they’re also too rich to stay at that.
What I propose in this piece is a different angle through which we can approach the question of truth — one I find more interesting, that emerges with just as much clarity from Fincher’s work, and that can give rise to a more positive perspective on these issues. It’s not a question of finding easy uplift, but the wrestled and difficult kind of move towards positive meaning that I think these works warrant.