Pressure and Obsession in the Films of David Fincher

Piers McCarthy
February 2012 / November 15, 2018

This dissertation aims to show the recurring themes of pressure and obsession in the work of film director David Fincher. Looking specifically at Seven (David Fincher, New Line Cinema, 1995), Zodiac (David Fincher, Paramount Pictures, 2007) and The Social Network (David Fincher, Columbia Pictures, 2010), I will show the gradual change in style and subject matter while still highlighting the resonance of the two themes under analysis. Furthermore, it will be shown how obsession and pressure link to Fincher’s working method. I will be examining critical, journalistic and academic writings to assess the themes and Fincher’s directorial position. Whereas Seven has had a great deal written about it, Zodiac and The Social Network are more recent films and thus there is less literature on them. For this reason, study on both films should garner more original analysis.

The themes of pressure and obsession differ slightly in all three films, however, there is an overriding sense in each film that the workplace and environment has a pressurizing effect on the characters. What is more, pressure can at times define the notion of obsession. Obsession is mostly shown as a mutation of characters’ personal drive, or an extension of their duties for work. The two themes can at times separate themselves in terms of aesthetic and narrative presentation yet they are mainly one and the same; at times they can even be analyzed in the context of Fincher’s filmmaking practice.

Chapter one gives an overview of contemporary Hollywood, the role of the director, Fincher in relation to both of these, the two themes under analysis and deliberations on auteurist theory – this constitutes the literature review. The second chapter examines the impetus of investigative obsession, along with the presentation of morbidity and tension in Seven. Chapter three looks at the similarity in obsessive personalities along with suspense and drama in Zodiac. Chapter four focuses on The Social Network and obsession effecting status quo. The conclusion will draw on the comparisons and contrasts from chapters two to four. It will also give an overall account of how we may regard Fincher in contemporary Hollywood and in respect to auteur theory.

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Fincherphilia & Beyond

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Just a small sample of all the precious filmic resources bestowed by Cinephilia & Beyond:

1993. Alien3 01

Alien3: “Take all of the responsibility, because you’re going to get all of the blame”

1995. Se7en

Se7en: A Rain-Drenched, Somber, Gut-Wrenching Thriller that Restored David Fincher’s Faith in Filmmaking

1995. The Game

Downwards Is the Only Way Forwards: Welcome to David Fincher’s The Game

1999. Fight Club

Fight Club: David Fincher’s Stylish Exploration of Modern-Day Man’s Estrangement and Disillusionment

2007. Zodiac

Fincher’s Zodiac As Easily One Of The Best Thrillers Of The Millennium So Far

1982. David Fincher at ILM

David Fincher’s Favorite Movies

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Zodiac

Steven Benedict
October 28, 2018

When a film breaks with tradition, it is often rejected by audiences. Which may be why Zodiac was not recognised as the groundbreaking masterpiece it is.

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More David Fincher related podcasts and video essays by Steven Benedict:

Se7en
Credits
Fight Club
The Social Network
House of Cards
Gone Girl

Other mentions

In Conversation with Andrew Kevin Walker

Andrew Kevin Walker (Brad Elterman)

 

On Story: 610 Andrew Kevin Walker – Se7en

Austin Film Festival (YouTube)
June 18, 2016

Screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker dissects his bleak thriller masterpiece, Se7en and working with director David Fincher to create the cult classic film.

 

Andrew Kevin Walker Interview

Movies and Stuff (YouTube)
Published on 22 Oct 2015

Dan and Abe interview the writer of Se7en Andrew Kevin Walker. Andrew touches on the history of Se7en, meeting Fincher, and his Silver Surfer script.

 

Episode 117: Ben from Fright-Rags, and Andrew Kevin Walker!

2018-10-12. Shock Waves (Libsyn) - Episode 117. Ben from Fright-Rags, and Andrew Kevin Walker!

Shock Waves
October 12, 2018

Join your hosts Ryan Turek and Rob Galluzzo as they welcome to the show Ben Scrivens, the owner/creator of horror T-shirt company Fright-Rags! Reviewed! TALES FROM THE HOOD 2, AMERICAN HORROR STORY: APOCALYPSE. The gang is also joined by special guest Andrew Kevin Walker, the screenwriter of David Fincher‘s SE7EN, SLEEPY HOLLOW, BRAINSCAN, 8MM, THE WOLFMAN, and much, much more. We get candid about the screenwriting process, the projects that never came to be, his working relationship with Fincher, and how he wrote SE7EN while working at Tower Records! All this and more!

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1992 Andrew Kevin Walker - Se7en. First Draft (andrewkevinwalker.com)Andrew Kevin Walker .com

The Thrilling Parallels Between Detective Somerset and John Doe in ‘Se7en’

Emily Kubincanek
August 24, 2018
Film School Rejects

How can the good guy and bad guy be so similar?

At the core of any story is the relationship between protagonist and antagonist, especially in a story where the protagonist must understand his enemy in order to find him. The best battles between good and evil are convoluted with characteristics that could be categorized as either, or neither. When hero and villain are more alike than either would want to admit, that makes for a dynamite struggle between them. There are so many books out there that explain how to achieve that element in storytelling, but few movies ever do it as well as David Fincher’s serial killer masterpiece Se7en (1995).

Honestly, we’ve learned to expect nothing less than greatness with a Fincher + serial killer collaboration, and Se7en was his first. This almost neo-noir thriller follows the investigation of a serial killer using the seven deadly sins to justify brutal killings all over an unnamed city. Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is an aging homicide detective on his way out of the department when he’s assigned the worst last case. He’s paired with his replacement, an idealistic and determined young detective named Mills (Brad Pitt). They’re forced to work through their differences to solve the case, which is more horrifying and unpredictable than either could imagine.

There are viable arguments for who is the true protagonist in this movie, Somerset or Mills. For the sake of reading the rest of this article, just humor me if you disagree that Somerset is the protagonist in this story. He begins and ends this movie, most of the struggles are his own, and he’s in 90 percent of the scenes. While Mills has a major relationship with the killer John Doe (Kevin Spacey) as well, what convinces me that he is not the protagonist is the connection and similarities between Somerset and Doe.

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Neville Pierce on Seven

SOMEONE ELSE’S MOVIE is just what it says on the label: Each week, an actor, director, screenwriter, critic or industry observer will discuss a film that he or she admires, but had no hand in making.

Hosted as genially as possible by Norm Wilner.

July 31, 2018
Someone Else’s Movie

Neville Pierce

The show returns to London so journalist and filmmaker Neville Pierce — whose latest short, Promise, just arrived on Vimeo — can discuss the life-changing impact and technical virtuosity of David Fincher‘s Seven. Your genial host Norm Wilner believes in the second part.

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Previous episodes discussing Fincher films:

Jeffrey P. Nesker on Alien 3
Mark O’Brien on The Game
Jean Grae on Fight Club

The Pitch (vimeo)
July 20, 2018

Promise (2017)

A Syrian refugee can only stay in Britain if she becomes a surrogate mother for a desperate couple, but their illicit pact has dark consequences.

Stars: Rebecca Callard, Nabil Elouahabi, Lara Sawalha
Directed by Neville Pierce
Written by Hannah Lee
Produced by Luke Walton & Neville Pierce

“Superbly done” – Mark Romanek

Promise is a haunting film of loss and hope which takes an old story and sets it in contemporary Britain. “Pregnant with resonances, both biblical and political” – Projected Figures

Promise was made as part of The Pitch, a competition which offers its winner a £30,000 production budget and a trip to Hollywood.

Read an interview with Promise screenwriter and Pitch finalist Hannah Lee.