Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Se7en (1995)

In this film-loving series we look at movies from all over the cinematic time line and in each genre pool to select a shot that particularly resonates with us, be it for aesthetic, thematic or for simply eye candy reasons.

This week we look back at David Fincher's breakthrough hit, Se7en (1995) which celebrates its 15th anniversary today. It happens to be my favorite serial killer picture ever, though I should note that its only real competition is Silence of the Lambs since this is an overstuffed genre with few actual classics.

Se7en's opening credits were an instant classic of the form and unfortunately so duplicated thereafter that the jarring edits, mental/visual derangements and perfect rock track probably feel like clichés to young viewers. But Se7en absolutely unnerved when it hit in 1995. My favorite shot comes about 80 minutes in when Detective Mills (Brad Pitt) and Detective Lt. Somerset (Morgan Freeman) finally discover John Doe's (Kevin Spacey) lair, the very place those opening credits would call home sweet sick home. After some creative corner-cutting search warrant business, begin to investigate its secrets.


Se7en, like all of David Fincher's work, is meticulously designed and this one in particular is just gorgeously shot. I consider it cinematographer Darius Khondji's best feature work and his omission from the Oscar line up that year was a real shame. That's not actually a split screen. Fincher and Khondji have made awesome use of the multi-room apartment set and smartly blocked the actors. For a brief moment before the detectives separate and cross cutting and horrible discoveries begin, we see them both searching different spaces simultaneously. There's multiple light sources and pockets of saturated color, Somerset's room has cool colors and Mills hallway is hot, rather like the personalities that make up this fractious partnership. But despite multiple lights, colors and faux split screen, the image is never muddied or chaotic, just darkly foreboding and dynamically alive both literally (the movement of the flashlight) and figuratively (what horrors lurk in these rooms?). In this shot, Mills and Somerset are almost shining their flashlights at each other, but as always they're seeing things differently.

Incidentally this is my favorite Brad Pitt performance outside of Fight Club. It's full of the kind of masculine anguish and wounded bird magnetism that's Leonardo DiCaprio's bread and butter these days. Brad went the extra mile... that broken left wing is his own.


6 More Deadly Sinners. That Makes Se7en
  • Brown Okinawa... looks at how attached Detective Somerset is to his job.
  • Serious Film... appreciates the craftsmanship and thinks Se7en lingers.
  • El Fanatico... gets creative like John Doe's books. Check out all these shot groupings.
  • Stale Popcorn... chooses seven deadly shots. Well, one is life-affirming.
  • Sketchy Details... absolves the detectives of their sins.
  • Plakatay... lives in the shadows.
 Other Films in This Series
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15 comments:

seasondays said...

http://ssds-elfanatico.tumblr.com/tagged/hitmewithyourbestshot-seven

my take on the BEST SHOT

Nicholas said...

For the week of Halloween y'all should Hit Me With Your Best Shot from Empire of Passion. I just watched and it is gorgeous, not as good as In the Realm of the Senses (which is a masterpiece), but really stunning. Just a thought...

cal roth said...

Best serial killer picture ever? Have you tried Michael Powell's Peeping Tom?

Andrew R. said...

Nate, I hope when you said that, you didn't mean "Se7en and Silence of the Lambs are the ONLY good serial killer pictures."

Aside from the opening credits, the best shots are the ones with the words written on the walls. GLUTTONY, GREED, etc. Creepy as hell.

Glenn Dunks said...

Mine is up. Suitably late, of course.

chris na Taraja said...

This film horrified me then and still gives me the creeps today. I like the scene where they find that guy in the bed...still alive!!! creepy. And this is really the only film that I like Kevin Spacey, cuase he's seriously creepy too, all the time.

Oh, no wait, I liked him in BEYOND THE SEA, as Bobby Darin....and ok, i also liked him as Lex luther in that horrible SUPERMAN RETURNS (but superman returns younger than before...what the F@%K was that?)

Michael C. said...

Agree with Cal: Peeping Tom is a masterpiece. It belongs on the Olympic platform holding a silver medal for creepy killing between Silence of the Lambs (gold) and Se7en (bronze). Unless of course we're counting Fritz Lang's M, in which case Se7en will just have to settle for the honor of competing.

Kurtis O said...

Love this series

cal roth said...

I suggest a tuesday top ten serial killers.

OtherRobert said...

I, too, participated this week. I was just waiting for the post to come up here to get the link on.

Mierzwiak said...

Here are my shots.

Nathaniel, I love your Best Shot. I didn't notice it, and your observations about it are great.

MRRIPLEY said...

I ALWAYS FELT THE ACTORS IN THIS NEVER GO THEIR DUES ECEN PALTROW IS V FINE,PITT IS V GOOD IN A LOT OF SCENES BUT SOMETIMES OVERDOES THE ANGRY YOUNG MAN BIT AND I FEEL THIS IS WHERE FREEMAN CEMENTED HIS WISE OLD SAGE.

okinawaassault said...

I think Brad Pitt got better over time with his performances (Jesse James, Burn After Reading). His performances in the 90's were charismatic cartoons. But then I couldn't believe his character at all. Murder is murder, whether it's committed from wherever Mills is from by an ordinary citizen or in this hellmouth of a city by John Doe. Again, thank God for Somerset.

Mierzwiak - So jealous you got the Tracy screencap.

ruchomeobrazki said...

A bit late to the party, but still, you can check mine here. A bit repetitive, I know, but couldn't help including John Doe craziness :)

Check it out here.

Silencio said...

I like this one. But my current favorite serial killer film is probably Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.