The Films of David Fincher: Introduction - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
14Dec/110

The Films of David Fincher: Introduction

For the rest of December, Ryan and Andrew are going to be engaging in a half-month conversation about the films of David Fincher, all leading up to the release of his American remake of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  As we are wont to to here at Can't Stop The Movies, any analysis comes with a ham-fisted cramming together of director / genre and month.  So strap in, Finchember is off to a roaring start!

But before we start, let's take a moment to get lost in those eyes.

Ryan:  I am a story/character person and have always been drawn to the directors who make you care about the people and could write wonderful moments of dialogue.  This makes it surprising to me that my favorite director working right now is David Fincher, who is a very cold, calculate and visually-oriented storyteller.

I had been confused by this for a while until I really stopped to think about it.  I realized while the man is a very visual director, he has always aligned himself with interesting stories and ideas crafted by world-class scripts guided by the best screenwriters.  You look at his work and he has been attracted to movies that turn their respective genre's on their ear like Seven and Zodiac, or a seemingly cracker-jack thriller like The Game which has all its pieces fit together perfectly by the end.  He's worked in the realm of book adaptations by bringing Fight Club to the cinema in all it's sardonic glory and finally obtaining Academy Award gold with wins for The Social Network and prestige in Benjamin Button.

If all Fincher cared for were visuals over everything else, I would appreciate him but not love his work, he would be another director who has the goods but doesn't know how to use them.  Thankfully, he cares deeply for characters and stories, and these are a few of the reasons he has made some of my favorite films from the last fifteen years.

Andrew COMMENTARYAndrew:  I've spent the last couple of months cataloging the rise and fall of modern hip-hope dance in movies, so I really could use some cold calculation.  Thanks for the idea Ryan!

Fincher, if nothing else, is a case study in careful craftsmanship and laser-scoped emotion.  To call them cold is a bit misleading because the focus of his films typically revolves aroud people who have become so singlemindedly obsessed on one thing (killers, aliens, websites, a vaguely defined game) it becomes their world.  As you noted, he may work in different genres, but he still keeps this central core around all of his films.

It's due to his work in music videos that his films adopted this intense focus, both in the visuals and the narrative.  Like commercial directors, a music video has to get in, tell a story within a small span of time, and then get out.  It's not too different from the world of short films, which can similarly span from two minute chicken scratches of insect wings on Super 8 stock, to 57 minute kung-fu influences surfer samurai films.  How else to explain the amazing story he tells in the opening five minutes of The Social Network, or the tense anticlimax of Zodiac?  Fincher tells stories within stories in his films which link together in a great way, though sometimes less successfully than he, or his fans, might have oped (Benjamin Button and Alien 3).

Commercials aside, what else do you think influences the Fincher mystique Ryan?

I definitely see a little bit of Orson Welles, Kubrick, and Ridley Scott in his work but the thing which interests me most about Fincher are the themes that run through most of his films.  Similar to what you said, most of his movies are about the loss of control, feeling helplessness and how the characters rise, or not, to the occasion.  We have losing the battle to your biggest nightmare, a serial killer who is always one step ahead of everyone, a man losing control of everything to a shadowy organization, a man at war with his own sanity and on it goes.

A lot of his films end with a suicide attempt and it is because of these themes.  Of course, many films are about people not in control as it makes for good stories, but Fincher takes it to the next level.  It is funny he is so into this theme because Fincher is one of the most controlling artists in Hollywood.

The sound and music are also very important to his films.  I can't imagine The Social Network with a different score of Fight Club minus the Dust Brothers music.  This has a lot do with, as you brought up, his background as a music director.  Yet I will conclude this part of my introduction by saying I dig the man so much because he melds the sights, sounds, emotions and story as good as anyone working right now.

Andrew, any final thoughts?

Andrew COMMENTARYI can scarcely remember anything the Fight Club soundtrack.  But, since I have a dull dislike of the film in spite of the three chances I've given it,  maybe it will give me something interesting to look / listen for during my fourth run through.  That admission aside, his films do have superb soundtracks, the empty score for Seven being a high point for me.

Still, our different approaches to movies and markedly different layers of fanboyism when it comes to Fincher should make for some interesting exchanges (readers, expect me to play "bad cop" quite a bit in the coming weeks).

Though I can't keep my feelings hidden for too long, for you or for Fincher.  Paula, let you searing tone matched with Fincher's equally polarizing visuals guide us swiftly into the future.

This Friday: Alien 3

Posted by Andrew

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