How a Thinking Filmmaker Films Thinking: The Shot-By-Shot Slow Burn of David Fincher

Posted by Brandi Blahnik | Aug 28, 2017
Audiences Everywhere

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.

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Cross-Examining David Fincher’s Interrogations

Sheryl Oh
August 8, 2017
Film School Rejects

Allegiances are never simple in a Fincher film.

David Fincher makes some seriously memorable films. That’s like saying water is wet, but his movies are impeccably crafted without seeming ostentatious or painfully clinical. Arguably, the best part about his films is the talking. You won’t find a film of his where character dynamics aren’t laid bare in the form of a lengthy conversation. Literally putting words on screen has been a landmark of his since the beginning of his film career.

Notably, many of Fincher’s movies crescendo to significant arguments and interrogations, and it is never just run-of-the-mill grilling. He has the ability to make talking – for want of a better term – interesting. Part of what makes his interrogations so enveloping and immersive is the insistent, intimate focus on the subjects at hand. Characters are thrust into settings but also command them in cinematically satisfying ways:

Fincher gives us just enough of any given setting, and the details are always overshadowed by the manner in which the characters move and interact within them. (Jones, 44)

Fincher has a new Netflix series coming out in a couple of months; one which will undoubtedly feature some of his signature wordy conversations. While awaiting the release of Mindhunter, we examine what it takes for him to put together the perfect interrogation scene.

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Procedural: Zodiac and the Digital Cityscape

A Video Essay by Conor Bateman

RealTime
July 17, 2017
vimeo

Conor Bateman observes how analogue and digital, real and constructed, bleed into a paranoid, video-game vision of 1970s San Francisco in David Fincher’s classic crime procedural, Zodiac.

Commissioned by Open City Inc, publisher of RealTime 2017, ©RealTime

Interiors: The spaces in David Fincher’s films

Interiors

Interiors is an online film and architecture journal, published by Mehruss Jon Ahi and Armen Karaoghlanian, that analyses and diagrams films in terms of space.

 

A Pair of Artists Use Architecture to Study Film

The founders of “Interiors,” a journal dedicated to film and architecture, diagram scenes from movies such as “Fight Club,” “Psycho,” and more.

Colin Warren-Hicks
January 30, 2014
Metropolis

 

INTERIORS: David Fincher

If cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame, David Fincher is an artist who is very much concerned about all four corners of his canvas.

by INTERIORS Journal
June 3, 2013
ArchDaily

 

Panic Room (2002)

“Their positioning throughout the scene provides us with an understanding of how David Fincher uses space within the film, and in doing so, how he also maintains the architectural integrity of the film.”

Mehruss Jon Ahi and Armen Karaoghlanian
2012-01
Interiors

 

Se7en (1995)

“The vastness of the desert around them emphasizes the fact that the handcuffed John Doe is captured; a lack of freedom despite the free space around him.”

Mehruss Jon Ahi and Armen Karaoghlanian
2013-01
Interiors

 

Fight Club (1999)

“David Fincher switches from a subjective perspective onto an objective perspective after the reveal has been made.”

Mehruss Jon Ahi and Armen Karaoghlanian
2014-01
Interiors

It has mutated and spawned…

From Jarred Land, President at RED:

“RED/FINCHER XENO 2.0”

From Matt Tremblay, Chief Designer at RED:

More pictures of the beast from other Instagrammers: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Has the “Xenomorph” mutated?

Last year, RED built a fully customised camera for David Fincher to shoot his upcoming series “Mindhunter” for Netflix:

David Fincher’s Custom RED Xenomorph for Netflix’s “Mindhunter”

by Richard Lackey | 6th May 2016
Cinema5D

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Has it mutated?: