Wednesday, December 15, 2010

David Fincher: Films that Scar

‘‘I’ve always been interested in movies that scar. The thing I love about Jaws is that I’ve never gone swimming in the ocean again.’’ —David Fincher

David Fincher is arguably the leading filmmaker of his generation, with a body of work that includes Fight Club, Seven, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. His movies are distinctive and often disturbing, but to date, very little has been written about how they actually work. In terms of existing critical literature on Fincher, there are huge gaps. There are studies on single films, such as Richard Dyer’s Seven (1999), which approaches the film as an inquisition into the nature of sin and David Thomson’s The Alien Quartet (1998), which is chronological and reasonably thorough but frequently recounts the plot and virtually paraphrases dialogue. At times, Thomson becomes hugely self-indulgent, explaining over pages, especially in relation to Alien Resurrection, the film he would have liked to see, rather than dealing with the one we have.


It is a contention of this book that David Fincher is one of the most imaginative filmmakers at work today and the complexity of his films not only invites, it demands, a more detailed, analytical response than has hitherto been the case. Critical energy has so far only been directed toward very specific areas, such as masculinity-in-crisis and the glorification of violence in Fight Club, the groundbreaking cinematography of Seven, and the failure of Alien3 to meet the expectations of that particular franchise.This book endeavors to look afresh at the films in their entirety and reconsider neglected critical areas, such as the literary background to Fight Club, Benjamin Button, and even Alien3

Rather than imposing a preexisting view onto the films, this book will seek to analyze the films closely and derive conclusions from evidence. Fincher’s background in music video and commercials is often cited as a criticism and de facto proof of a superficial aesthetic. However, to the contrary, Fincher’s experience with shorter film forms makes him acutely aware of the potential of every single shot, in which he needs to show sensitivity to a different sense of storytelling rhythm based around the three-minute pop song and remain in touch with state-of-the-art visual effects. These experiences and his rejection of film school as a route into the industry link him with a small but growing band of directors who have taken a similar career path—Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, Gore Verbinski, and Wes Anderson.

In terms of readership, this book is aimed at the thoughtful film viewer. Fincher makes films to be seen by a mass audience and therefore discussion of his work should be accessible to that same market. That said, this book assumes basic knowledge of the films themselves and an awareness that disciplines such as Film Studies exist. This author feels it is important to go beyond regurgitating plots or repeating established critical positions about them. This book aims to be critically rigorous but avoid unnecessary jargon that would exclude a mainstream reader. Ideally, it should make the reader want to look again at films he or she thinks they know and try out those they may have missed.


Excerpted from the "Introduction" to David Fincher: Films That Scar by Mark Browning
Praeger, 2010.
Sample topics include: Alien3; Cinematography; Commercials; Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The; De Palma, Brian; Detective Films; Fight Club; Film Noir; Fitzgerald, F. Scott; Hitchcock, Alfred; Intertextuality; Kubrick, Stanley; Literary Adaptations; Palahnuik, Chuck; Panic Room; Pop Videos; Rendezvous with Rama; Se7en; Woman-in-Peril Movies; Zodiac

No comments:

Post a Comment