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.

Read the full article

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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.

Listen to the conversation

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.

Opinion: SE7EN’s John Doe Didn’t Succeed as He Planned

Jonathan Barkan
July 3, 2018
Dread Central

David Fincher’s 1995 psychological horror/thriller Se7en is one of most enduring and terrifying films of its kind, standing alongside the likes of The Silence of the Lambs, Zodiac, Frailty, and The Vanishing, amongst others. The tale of two detectives, one new to the force and one on the way out, searching for a serial killer whose victims are chosen according to the seven deadly sins, Se7en was lauded upon release and was wildly commercially successful.

While the gritty, grimy, darkness that pervades throughout the film hovers like a miasma of evil, it’s the ending that has cemented the film in cinema history. I urge those who have not seen the film to avoid reading any further because this piece will delve deep into spoiler territory, ruining a great deal of what makes this film so special.

Read the full article

 

Murder by Imitation: The Influence of Se7en’s Title Sequence

Tim Groves
April 2018 (Issue 43)
Screening the Past

The serial killer film is nothing if not prolific: Robert Cettl discusses over six hundred examples in his annotated filmography, Richard Dyer argues that there are over two thousand serial killer films, and the IMDB lists more than 3500 film and television titles. [1] As with any genre, the serial killer film is marked by its typicality. Indeed, Philip Simpson criticises the serial killer film as a subgenre that is “endlessly derivative of its predecessors”. [2] The tropes of the clever, fiendish killer, his grotesque, ritualistic ‘signature’ and the gifted but damaged investigator are certainly familiar, but how does the serial killer film replicate itself on a textural level? This article will analyse the influence of Kyle Cooper’s much admired opening title sequence in Se7en (David Fincher, 1995). [3] However, rather than exploring the general influence of the sequence, I will focus on its stylistic similarities to the credit sequences of other serial killer texts such as The Bone Collector (Phillip Noyce, 1999), Red Dragon (Brett Rattner, 2002), Sanctimony (Uwe Boll, 2001), Taking Lives (D.J. Caruso, 2004) and the first season of Whitechapel (Ben Court and Caroline Ip, 2009). I will argue that their imitative or plagiaristic qualities can be interpreted in terms of Mark Seltzer’s work on the repetitive and circular discourse of serial killing.

Se7en

The title sequence of Se7en appears a few minutes into the film, occurring after a brusque initial encounter between Detectives William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and David Mills (Brad Pitt) at the scene of the first murder. The sequence runs for just over two minutes and contains over a hundred shots, many in close up. It shows a person (whom we retroactively infer is the killer John Doe [Kevin Spacey]) shaving off the skin on his fingertips, and then working on a group of notebooks while wearing bandages. We see Doe writing in longhand, and highlighting and erasing portions of other texts. He also develops photographs and uses scissors to trim Polaroids and pieces of film. Doe incorporates some of these images and texts into the notebooks and then uses needle and thread to stitch the pages of his journal into a book, one of many.

The title sequence provides vital story material for the viewer about Doe’s activities. He removes his fingertips to ensure that he does not leave fingerprints behind, either in his apartment or at crime scenes. This also enables him to toy with the investigators by leaving a message composed of fingerprints on a wall at the second murder scene. Instead of this resulting in Doe’s apprehension, it points the police to his third victim, whose amputated arm was used to ‘write’ the words “help me”. After Doe surrenders, the police discover that he does not have a Social Security number, nor any banking or other official records. He is also, as Somerset states, “John Doe by choice”. His anonymity focuses police attention on to his mission or “work”. Indeed, during the final confrontation, Doe insists that he is not personally important, but that his crimes will be remembered and studied because of their shocking nature and diabolical logic (and Se7en is more memorable than many other serial killer films for precisely this reason).

Read the full essay

Thanks to Joe Frady

In conversation with… Lee Child on David Fincher’s Se7en

A video of Lee Child’s intro to last year’s BFI screening of “SE7EN“. I was there that night for the specially imported, ‘privately owned’ (QT?), original CCE 35mm print. I would have preferred a 4K DCP…

Joe Frady

November 30, 2017
BFI (YouTube)

Thriller author Lee Child talks to the BFI‘s Stuart Brown about David Fincher’s dark crime thriller, which follows a detective duo who find themselves pursuing a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins to theme his murders. With a great ensemble cast and Darius Khondji’s camerawork helping to bring out the bleak, urban landscape, Se7en was a worldwide success.

“The Wire” and “House of Cards” actor Reg E. Cathey has died

2013. Reg E. Cathey in House of Cards, Season 1 (Patrick Harbron / Netflix)

Veteran character actor, with a distinctive deep baritone voice, Reg E. Cathey has died at the age of 59, after a battle with lung cancer.

He had an extensive career in both TV and film but started being recognized for his work for David Simon and HBO in the mini-series The Corner and in the fourth and fifth seasons of The Wire, where he played newspaperman turned political operative Norman Wilson.

He also was Prison Unit Manager Martin Querns in the HBO series Oz, and boxing promoter Barry K. Word in the FX series Lights Out starring Holt McCallany.

He gained critical acclaim with his role in the Netflix series created by Beau Willimon House of Cards, as the owner of the small barbecue restaurant enjoyed by Frank Underwood, Freddy Hayes, which earned him three consecutive Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, including a win in 2015.

Cathey had already worked for David Fincher before the first two episodes of House of Cards. Almost twenty years earlier, he played the brief but “meaty” role of Dr. Santiago in the chillingly memorable post-autopsy scene in Se7en.

1995. Seven - Reg E. Cathey.jpg