David Fincher has developed a very distinct style over the years as he has cemented himself as one of our most impressive technical filmmakers. Fincher has a great hold on characters and story, but he stands out because his mechanical, almost robotic, style of filmmaking is so recognisable and effective. His movies are distinguishable by a number of trademarks and signature moves. Fincher likes washed-out colours with lots of metallic blues and greys along with crushed blacks, which makes his movies seem as though they’re being projected to us on a piece of frozen metal. He also avoids handheld camera work, opting instead for a locked down camera that pans and pivots around a scene with balanced, unnatural movement, which enhances the feeling of an omniscient camera that is operating independently of a human being and not subject to control. He also enjoys locking the camera in place and filming wide, stationary shots as though we are watching the action play out on a stage at a theatre.
Meet Edmund Kemper.
Mindhunter is a new Netflix series executive produced by David Fincher and Charlize Theron and we can’t wait to check it out. Today we have a clip teasing protagonist Holden Ford‘s meeting with serial killer Edmund Kemper. While Ford (played by Jonathan Groff) is a fictionalized version of FBI behavioral expert John E. Douglas, Edmund Kemper (Cameron Britton) is real as hell.
Warning: It turns out that “… and then he’s gonna have sex with your face” isn’t just a funny remark, so reader discretion is advised.
A FEW YEARS ago, one eagle-eyed YouTube user uploaded a true internet find: a 1998 DVD-Rom ad for a new service called NetFlix.com. Over a swell of stringed instruments and a parade of movie posters from Raging Bull to Twins, the new DVD rental company explained itself (“You won’t have to search for a video store that carries more than a few titles”). “Holy S**t!” wrote one commenter. “They had Netflix in ’98?!” They sure did, Shadowkey392.
In fact, today marks the 20th anniversary of the birth of the company—August 29, 1997, is when Reed Hastings, flush off the sale of his company Pure Atria (nee Pure Software), cofounded it with his colleague Marc Randolph. It wasn’t even named Netflix then—it was called Kibble.
But August 29, 1997, is quite possibly the least important date in the company’s history. As the past 20 years has shown, Kibble evolved in some precipitous and unexpected ways. So rather than celebrating its birth, it might make more sense to highlight the many other dates that are truly worthy of commemoration—the ones that helped turn Netflix from a mail-order business to a cultural behemoth.
There are less than 20 gunshots fired in David Fincher’s 1995 film Seven, each exchanged between David Mills and John Doe. If you don’t count Detective Somerset’s late face slap, there is only one wounding act of violence committed onscreen. It’s an oft-shared description offered by cinephiles and aspiring screenwriters and critics: Seven is, in the most basic sense, a non-violent film, even as watching it feels like a very violent viewing experience. For most of its run-time, Seven, which this week celebrates its 20th anniversary, is a noir- serial killer thriller built around already murdered corpses rather than murderous acts. Yet, this basic quantifiable description feels misleading to anyone watching or re-watching the film, anyone caught within or recently escaped from the spiraling trap of the film’s increasingly unsettling, malicious scenes.
Seven is widely credited for displaying influence from prior detective films and inspiring several films of comparable serial killer concern, but few films in either comparative line have less character violence and yet even fewer give as distinct an impression of having witnessed something truly violent.
When one of the great directors of a generation announces their next project, the film world listens. It is rare, however, for said announcement to be puzzling. Martin Scorsese is creating his treatise on faith in Silence? Of course he is. Kathryn Bigelow is making the true story of the Detroit riots? Sure, why not? Paul Thomas Anderson’s next untitled film starring Daniel Day Lewis is about a dressmaker for the Royal Family? Sounds award worthy. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. And then there’s David Fincher.
As most know, Fincher certainly got off to a rough start as a director. After cutting his teeth on music videos, he was tapped to direct Alien 3. The tales of his struggles on that particular film are legendary at this point, and he has basically disowned the movie and refuses to speak about it. After a three-year hiatus, he returned with Se7en. This success helped launch his career to the next level. He is now seen as one of the best directors available, easily on par with the others previously mentioned. But unlike most top directors, Fincher does not seem to always reach for the brass ring. Instead, he seems to vacillate between premier projects, like The Social Network or The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, to more eccentric choices, such as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or Gone Girl.
Gone Girl may be Fincher’s oddest choice to date. The film, based on the best selling novel by Gillian Flynn, is nowhere near an awards contender or at least not at first glance. Any number of pseudo-negative descriptions have been used to chronicle the details of the book; trashy, over-the-top, a beach read, the list goes on and on. Given the stunning sales of Gone Girl, a film adaptation was inevitable. But to be directed by the creator of two films that arguably were the best of their respective years, in Zodiac and The Social Network? Very unlikely.
One of the most challenging aspects of storytelling is showing a character thinking. It might sound like a straightforward task, but think about what you look like while studying. Ever watched someone complete a puzzle? It’s a quiet, meditative task marked by trial and error. In reality, there’s remarkably little head-scratching or furrowed brows. Visually, it’s rather unimpressive.
So how does a creator reveal thinking—poring over material, investigative work, head-buried-in-clues research—without absolutely boring the audience? How does a director reinvent frustration, the false lead, the maddening search, particularly over a two-hour film?
David Fincher has made a career of chronicling that very process.
Not only has Fincher produced some of the most haunting detective sequences in film—Se7en, Zodiac, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—but you’d be unlikely to find criticism calling his films boring. He’s a master at tension-building and unapologetic about his resolutions. Perhaps this is why so many of his characters fall prey to their own obsessive madness. The unraveling of a character is something Fincher portrays with patience and deliberateness.