Nothing would ever be the same for him.
Seeing her made him realise the meaning of existing. He had emerged from the crowd accepting his strengths and his weaknesses, all so that he could be noticed,
“She was far from ordinary.
I mean not to imply any negative sense of the term when describing her character.
I have a passionate distaste for anything ordinary.
Ordinary to me means self-doubt.
Being Ordinary simply implies the choice of not exceeding one’s potential, bowing down instead to the flow of the river like a dead fish.
No one is perfect – she was no exception.
What drove me crazy about her was the defiance she espoused in the face of society. She would not submit.
Her personality remained unchanged to her surroundings.
Her actions reflected a lack of self-doubt.
“I have no chance, not with her.”
I would tell myself.
She was intelligent, gorgeous, provocative, yet gentle.
I was basic.
With all the girls I had claimed, none were like her.
I enjoyed that.
Her attitude, the attitude she exemplified with each passing day, made me realise how wrong I was.
Even if in my eyes I was right.
She opened my eyes to the world.
A world I had once looked down upon through a lens compatible with that of nihilism,
Now it had transformed.
Into one of beauty, naked with opportunity and the love I had yearned for so long.
She reminded me from time to time life was hard, yet guided me into realising that the pain was worthwhile.
She was my life, my sadness, my insecurities, my joy, my pride, my closure, and my love.”
Emerging from the crowd to see her better, was the best decision he would ever make.
As we approach the end of the year, I am reminded of its beginning.
While returning home in a suburb of Athens I found myself struck by what I saw.
The day after Christmas, this event opened my to what Humanity is capable of.
Before I begin depicting what occurred let me set the context.
Greece, in case many of my readers are unaware, is still recovering from an economic crisis of epic proportions. Although on the road to recovery, the country still has a long way to go.
When we think of moments in history that involved such moments of crisis we often imagine social anarchy, chaos, and desperation. I remember fanatically following the events in Greece in 2009 on the news horrified at the destructive protests that were occurring at Parliament Square. Tear gas, riot police, rioters in balaclavas battled it out in what seemed like a country that had finally lost its social cohesion.
This was all nonsense of course.
Yes, riots did take place during the early months of the crash (they are still common occurrences) but daily life continues, albeit under harsh constraints.
So, when I saw I what did, it gave me some respite with what currently seems to be a divisive and toxic time in recent human history.
The streets in Athens, like any European city, are narrow and long. The one I walked down was no different.
A truck attempted to drive up the road but a parked car on the driver's right was causing obstruction. It hadn’t been parked properly, sticking out, rather than comfortably tucked up against the curb that is.
The driver got out and tried to find some room for his vehicle to utilize so that he could continue his journey. To no avail. He sighed, as he looked behind his truck to see a long line of cars waiting patiently for him to move.
At this point, I was just surprised these cars weren’t blasting their horns, quite the contrary. Two drivers from the first two cars got out. I braced myself for a classic scene of volatile road rage with
“HURRY THE .... UP YOU …” “I CAN’T YOU …”.
Instead, the drivers asked the driver what the matter was. He pointed to the parked car and said, unfortunately, his car was stuck.
Here’s where it got even more impressive.
Three men walking by, I’m not sure if they knew each other, went to the drivers and one of them pointed to the same car and said, “let’s move it then”.
Just like that, they all heaved and pushed wheezing as they did until the car was against the curb. The truck driver grateful drove on and the three pedestrians and two drivers went their separate ways.
A simple act of generosity of spirit on the part of the pedestrians combined with the patience of the two drivers not only prevented an ugly (and pointless) confrontation but also provided a much-needed solution; moving that car out of the way.
I know it may seem like something trivial given this happened in a random street in south Athens in a country many of you may not have any connection with.
Yet, I still think there is something we can take from these six individuals; the generosity of spirit, patience, and kindness.
It’s been a while since I’d seen something like that happen in a public setting. At a time where Brexit, the nine-hundredth British General Election since 2015, imagine if such acts of solidarity, kindness could happen beyond the confines of a small narrow street in Athens to perhaps, on a grander scale?
Thank you for reading.
Its been hard.
Daily routines consisting of chores bring forth added weight to a back, already constrained. Yet,
nothing hurts me anymore.
I am numb to pain and suffering.
Here among the Elements.
Its early evening now. The winter makes its presence known with cold air sifting through the stiff structure one calls home. The guitar emerges, and we know what is coming.
Simon strums the strings with a melody unique to the one before. David begins to sing.
I strum my fingers on the table, embracing this moment.
The week has been lonely. Tough. Yet here we all are, smiling, laughing.
I knock back my drink and grimace. It isn’t the wine I’m used to. It isn’t wine. I laugh and continue to listen.
Their voices are louder now as their chorus kicks in. I recognise the lyrics now and join in when I can.
I’m lucky they exist.
I try not to continue reflecting on the bitter solitude of the past week.
The draft again sweeps through the room. Brr.
Goosebumps appear on my exposed skin. I sit on my hands for warmth, before eventually surrendering to the Element; so, I wear my jumper.
The comforting embrace of heat I receive from the cotton eases my shivering. But I am still cold.
I stand up.
Like a dog I shake my torso to warm myself up.
The alcohol is taking over now. I embrace it and begin to laugh more. Finally, I’m ok.
We walk down the beach now. It’s dark, I can barely make out the silhouettes of David and Simon but I know they’re there. They’re in conversation now, but I’m not focusing.
Instead, I am listening to the serenity of the beach. The cold now doesn’t bother me. Ha, the irony.
In the room I shivered as if suffering from hypothermia. Yet, exposed in natures backyard, I am ok. Exposed to the howls of the city’s wind off its shoreline, I am ok. I inhale through my nose, momentarily closing my eyes.
I am ok.
I am, ok.
I open my eyes smiling.
Simon’s found us a spot now. Somewhere to sit. Somewhere sheltered.
We follow his determined, albeit drunken, lead. During this brief transition not a word is spoken.
We hear each others footsteps trudging through the moist sand. I can’t see the footprints, but I imagine them.
We arrive at the bench. The three of us claim a portion of the seating, before turning our attention to the destructive ocean before us.
“The foam from the sea is amazing.” I point to the breaking waves.
They agree and debate whether the distant lights on the horizon belong to a boat or a lighthouse. I moderate:
"What if it's just stationary boat with lights."
They look at me, then at eachother. Their laughter raucously penetrates the chillyness of the shoreline.
I smile and laugh too.
The solitude and difficult moments of the last week seem like a distant memory.
I smile as we embrace each other with drunk affection, laughing and talking.
Nothing hurts me here.
Here, among the Elements.
The route to the light you have seen is vast.
You know not where the light may be found. You know not whether the path before you leads there or anywhere. Yet here you are.
You stand at the entrance of this dark and morbid tunnel which you have avoided your whole life. However, you are determined this time. Veering forward you enter cautiously, it is your first time here so you need to be careful. Thankfully, as you are fueled by the seemingly endless energy bestowed upon you from your inner hunger and determination, you march onwards.
You inhale with inspiration as you confidently take your first steps into the unknown. You slow down. Your progress down the tunnel starts to deteriorate at a rate parallel to your fading motivation. Before your drive and stubborn intent had seemed everlasting but now this has faded. You finally stop walking and turn your gaze back at where you began and the extent of your progress is realised.
You have barely entered. All that energy and marching has amounted to nothing. Judging by the distance between you and the entrance you have barely entered this tunnel. You now find yourself staring at what you had first wanted to leave. Now, however, you begin to question your intent on leaving. As if on cue, a voice of reason begins to emerge.
“Turn back now, you’ve had your fun. You tried your best. Come on home no one will blame you.”
You start to step back. You know it’s right, that voice. Of course, it is.
All that your mind had conceived had been but a dream. The reality of that dream was simply that; a dream.
You begin to laugh at yourself.
What were you thinking? Leaving the comforts of your present position, the familiar faces and surroundings, for what? Some light you had never seen before? A light that only you could see down a dark and winding tunnel?
How would you have reached it? Why would you have gone?
You shrug as if to provide this voice with an answer. I don’t know, you reply. Facing the entrance, you are enticed to retrace your steps and leave.
Outside the tunnel, beyond the entrance, you remember the beauty of your former surroundings. You can now see the sunshine across the luscious lawns that seem rolled out before you. “Just a few more steps” the voice insists “You’ll be home soon, keep going”. You can hear your loved ones calling for you from the entrance. You begin to move towards their sounds. But you stop. You close your eyes and begin to remember.
You remember the reason why you started this journey. Why you needed to leave. The perfection of your starting origin bored you. You wanted more.
Not in a selfish, spoilt way.
You simply wanted a challenge rather than the perfect solutions you had been constantly provided with.
You knew you could do it then. You know you can do it now. You look at the entrance where the warm sunlight burns brightly emphasising the surrounding colours that emerge through nature’s gifts. You smile and are thankful. Without what lies before you, you may not be in the position you are in now.
Your smile slowly disappears, as all of a sudden you are alert. Focused. Intent.
You turn away from the entrance and away you go. You now walk with purpose, a purpose that now seems to carry you far, far from the comforts that were enticing you to return. You now ignore the voice in your head as it shouts violently “Stop, Stop, STOP!” But this time its words have no effect. It is just a voice which you now shut out.
Behind you, the sounds and light disappear as you continue to march forward. This time nothing will stop you from arriving at your destination. There is no turning back now. You will achieve it for you have seen it already in your mind. Your vision will become a reality and to do so you must continue walking down this tunnel.
You embrace the darkness and the unknown territory you enter. You embrace your surroundings, knowing each step forward is one step closer to the light.
You will conquer this tunnel, to find the light you envisioned.
You will emerge on the other side.
It will all have been worth it.
To understand the main ideas and beliefs of postmodernism, it is crucial to observe the origins of this movement and how it has changed the way people started perceiving the surrounding world. During the historical period of modernism, a major intellectual shift occurred. People left behind their religious beliefs and started glorifying the aspect of mankind, thoughts, and problem-solving. Such ideology was destroyed after a devastating period of World War II when human beings’ optimism was dimmed by a trauma. Modernism projects the real, collapsed world as the tragic ad suggests escapism into art and literature as the only coherence and remedy. Nevertheless, people still believed in the power of mankind as the only coping mechanism and solution.
Postmodernism introduces a new need to delve into the unknown of the surroundings, rethinking and analysing what has already been stated. People started questioning the aspect of reality and rejected what they have already established about their perception of the world. This period was considered a prime era for psychoanalytic and philosophers. As opposed to modernism, postmodernism derives from the fragmentation of the world and states that it is something inevitable. Plantinga (1996) compares visual images to the ‘Plato’s Cave’: ‘(...) cave dwellers see only the ephemeral shadows cast by a reality outside the cave (...) they see only the cave walls, and not outside.’ (14) He states that people that have never left the cave will wrongly consider what they see inside it as reality because they’ve never seen the outside world. Lacey in his book titled Introduction to Film states that postmodernism beliefs were mostly influenced by the media - virtual imitation of the surrounding world, which is a more modern explanation to what Jean Baudrillard declared in one of his most popular works Simulacra and Simulation from 1981. French philosopher and sociologist suggest that we are living in a world that the reality and everything that used to be certain has been replaced by simulation, where the reality is non-existent. The writer states that human beings can manipulate and imitate reality to the extent that no longer enables them to distinguish between simulation and existence.
Mark Poster (1988) introduces Baudrillard’s thesis in a book titled Jean Baudrillard. Selected Writings. The philosopher describes map as a simulacrum, which projects a reality, without being real itself: ‘Simulation is no longer that of territory, a referential being, or substance. It is the generation by modes of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map nor does it survive it. It is nevertheless the map that precedes the territory precession of simulacra that engenders the territory…’ (166). Moreover, if a human being’s existence is no longer real, so is the simulacra created by them.
Postmodernist movement enhanced many new ideas and evoke creativity in various artists, including film directors, giving them a new chance to experiment with their film’s narrative. Postmodern works were a mixture of low and high art and a combination of contrasting genres. According to Hutcheon (1997): ‘Postmodern film is that which paradoxically wants to challenge the outer borders of cinema and wants to ask questions (though rarely offers answers) about ideology’s role in subject-formation and in historical knowledge.’ (42) Movies such as Run Lola Run (1998) by Tom Tykwer, visibly inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950), introduces three different possible endings of a film. Fight Club (1999) by David Fincher (where the main character enters the new reality by playing a life-changing game), or The Truman Show (1998) directed by Peter Weir (in which the character portrayed by Jim Carrey realises that his whole life was a TV show) are a solid representation of postmodern cinema. Their directors ‘play’ with the audience, blearing and mashing the meaning of reality even on the screen. In 1999, Lilly and Lana Wachowski (The Wachowski Sisters) released a film that combined Jean Baudrillard’s philosophy with CGI, action, science-fiction, and special effects, introducing a new reality, known as the matrix.
The Matrix is a film that follows the story of a computer hacker (Keanu Reeves) who discovers that the world that he used to live in is a simulation (the matrix). Later he learns about his destiny to save both realities from vicious machines that draw energy from human beings. The film was introduced during an era of huge technological progress, which enabled The Wachowski Sisters to fully use more advanced equipment for their action film. The film was foreshadowed before it’s release during Super Bowl commercial break when the viewers were hijacked with a short classic bullet time scene of Keanu Reeves effortlessly dodging the motion bullet trails. Shortly after, the audience could log in to the website titled WhatIsTheMatrix.com and the whole excitement surrounding the film started. Moreover, according to Hoberman (2012), ‘The Matrix further benefited from and made use of DVD technology which, introduced in 1996, came into its own as a consumer product in the late 1990s’ (14).
As stated above, The Matrix was a huge commercial and technological success, which provided the audience with a new level of entertainment and excitement, but the film is not only about visual delectation. The film heavily borrows the stated concept of no longer existent reality, questions and reflects postmodern problems. The Wachowski Sisters stated that The Matrix is a conscious validation of Jean Baudrillard's theory presented in Simulacra and Simulation combined with the big-budget CGI movie for the mass audience. The book itself is referenced in the film. It is owned by the main character (Neo), in which he keeps software discs needed for his profession as a programmer. This short scene is a direct foreshadowing to the character’s future of becoming the chosen one that unites both parallel worlds. Neo is introduced to the matrix by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) who starts their conversation in the real world by referencing Jean Baudrillard theory: ‘Welcome to the Desert of the Real’, which sets the proper atmosphere and induces a philosophical tone for the film. In the matrix (which closely resembles the real world) characters have to fight with sentient machines and agents that are a threat to their world. Human beings are reborn in a special incubator, which can be interpreted as an absolute forfeiture of the knowledge about the surrounding world (another reference to postmodernism). Moreover, the characters can quickly learn new abilities, such as martial arts or languages, by simply using a computer software connected to the matrix. In the later scene, Neo is preparing to meet with the Oracle, to learn about his future and destiny. He’s having a conversation with a child who is bending the spoon and later explains that it is possible only if you will believe that the spoon does not exist in your world. The spoon could be a reference to Baudrillard’s map which is also nonexistent because it only imitates reality.
Linda Hutcheon (1997) states that one of the most irreplaceable aspects of the postmodern film is an element of parody: ‘Parody points at once to and beyond cinematic textuality to the ideological formation of the subject by our various cultural representations.’ (37) The Matrix is an example of an action and science-fiction genre parody. The action film cuts spectators loose from the laws of physics, presents limitless gun bullets, and introduces new bullet-time technology just to show Neo’s exaggerated characters development in the end. Characters are almost invincible, they are capable to learn new abilities in a very short time, which separates them from the classic action genre heroes. The directors used parody elements to remind the spectators that they are watching a body of work constructed from various parts and references which makes it not real, fictional. The Matrix mocks the action genre but uses pastiche to celebrate and enthuse about Baudrillard's theory.
The iconic phenomenon of a glitch in the matrix was explained in a film as a feeling of déjà vu (sense of repetition in one's life) which can be interpreted as one of the postmodern belief that everything is reproduced, history repeats itself. According to Hutcheon (1997) postmodern film presents an aspect of continuity and the idea that everything has been already shown on the screen: ‘Another way of talking about the political paradoxes of parody would be to see it as self-consciously intransitive representation (film recalls film) which also milks the power of transitivity to create the spectator's identification.’ (37). Postmodern films are usually packed with many references to different movies, literature, and artworks. The Matrix borrows not only from Simulacra and Simulation but also from a book novel written by Ayumu Munakata titled Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1871). The main character’s computer advises him to ‘follow the white rabbit’, which is a reference to an animal that introduced Alice to the magical world of Wonderland. Another, less direct reference can be seen in a scene where Morpheus presents Neo with a decision to choose between the red pill and blue pill, which is reminiscent to Alice’s bottle and cake labelled ‘Drink Me’ and ‘Eat Me’. The film’s cyberpunk atmosphere and aesthetic were heavily influenced by Japanese anime film titled Ghost in the Shell (1995) directed by Mamoru Oshii.
The world of the matrix, based on a philosophical theory of Jean Baudrillard, questions the realness of our surroundings and adapts the possibility of simulation. The Wachowski Sisters present the audience with a new version of the real world, packed with action, CGI, and science fiction. This treatment states a possibility to associate The Matrix as a simulacrum itself, which only imitates reality. Nick Bostrom (2003) argues that there are three possible assumptions about our reality from which at least one of the given is true: ‘(1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a ‘posthuman’ stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history; (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.’ (243). Swedish philosopher thoroughly delves his theory, concluding that there is an approximate 22% chance for the third assumption to be true.
As stated above, The Matrix can be seen as a ‘postmodern’ text, due to its intertextual and parodic nature. The Wachowski Sisters mixed high and low art by creating a hybrid of philosophical science fiction and action films. The directors' interpretation of one of the most crucial postmodern theory, presented by Jean Baudrillard, combined with mass audience action film created a simulacrum itself. Their movie is packed with many indirect and direct references to other art media, coherently creating a world that became a classic representation of alternate reality itself. Merging everything with parody and pastiche elements, resulted in The Matrix becoming one of the most popular films of its genre. Many critics state that when we revisit the film nowadays it will come upon as very old-fashioned and dated, due to technological progress, but no one denies that during movies prime it was a cinematic and conventional breakthrough.
The master of building up the tension, amazes us with originality in each of his films with a commited penchant for dark atmosphere. He loves to “play” with his audience in a brutal way, keeping them in suspense till the last minute, allowing them to analyse and reflect on his craft. One of the best American directors - David Fincher was born on 28th of August 1962 in Colorado. Known from films such as Seven (1995), The Game (1997), Fight Club (1999), and Zodiac (2007). He was nominated twenty six times for the best director (Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Satellite Awards, The Palms) and National Board of Review in the same category.
Since he was eighteen years old he was interested in films and art. In 1980 Fincher started working as an animator in Industrial Light & Magic company, where he met many famous film-makers, and acquired useful abilities, which came handy in the process of creating his films, later. After a couple of years, he left the motion picture company in order to hone his skills apart from visual effects. He began working in commercials industry, directing popular advertisements from the 80s and 90s. He was cooperating with reputed brands such as Pepsi, and Nike. Alongside, he was also collaborating with singers, such as Madonna, directing music videos for her songs (Vogue, Express Yourself). The experience he gained while working in commercials and music industry can be later seen in his film-making technique. Fincher’s film intros are mounted perfectly with background music, aesthetically and visually pleasing that it could be music videos by itself.
David Fincher at the beginning of his film-making career, proved that he works the best in neo-noir film atmosphere, the type that uses many elements from film-noir adding new, not-present-before motifs (visual elements, mass media, and new theme schemes). Films that usually diverge from a classical division of good and bad, and its main theme surrounding perversions and scandals, which remains unsolved for a long time. One of the most characteristic elements of noir films is their gloomy and dark atmosphere, operating with dark shades of lighting, and shady, abandoned cities as a main location for the plot.
The American director very often dodges happy endings, because they’re not thought provoking and do not evoke reflective thoughts in the viewers.
“Some people go to the movies to be reminded that everything’s OK. I don’t make those kind of movies. That, to me, is a lie. Everything is not OK.”
~ David Fincher (1999)
His body of work screams a characteristic tenebrous and thrilling vibe, which is achieved by very strong colour contrasts and playing with shadows visuals. Typical Fincher’s heros are men drawn to harsh intrigues, unresolved mysteries and perversions. The director is very precise when it comes to the choice of fitting scenery for his film, which aptly brings out the atmosphere of his creation. Most of his stories take place in gloomy and unfriendly towns, where citizens come across various drastic events everyday. His films were interpreted and analyzed in many ways, of which shocking and thought provoking are comments one will come across easliy. Nevertheless, his body of work definitely is not for every cinema-goer, although many say it was already welcomed and labelled as classics of thriller genre.
Fincher’s characters are usually detectives, investigators, which is reflected in his detailed compositions. All of his shots are very precise. The director uses special effects in order to make his movies feel more realistic, or keeping the right continuity. Fincher is known for hijacking his viewers eyes with camera movements. He uses camera tilt, pan and tracking shots that perfectly match the movements of the characters. Fincher locks viewers inside the behaviour of his characters by the use of this technique, which allows them to pay attention to the character’s state of mind. This interesting technique shows how he is obsessed with behaviour and movement of his actors, because he believes that movement offers true insight into their emotions.
His film-making adventure started with a horror flick. In 1992 Fincher released his first full-length film - Alien 3, which referenced more to the first part of the franchise directed by Ridley Scott. Fincher patterned himself on his antecedent and was not interested in scaring a viewer with jumpscares. By leisurely building up thrilling atmosphere, he achieves leaving the audience with uncomfortable tension till the last minute of the film. The American director introduced his own version of a well-known alien, which was rarely visible on the screen. This allowed the viewer to become more imaginative and reflective, while waiting for the main monster to emerge, which added to the suspense during the screening. Most of the fans of the original series were disappointed after the show, maybe because they were expecting a conventional horror film like the previous installments. One year later, the director participated in an hour-long interview for Mark Burman, during which he tried to make the image of his body of work. After unsuccessful attempt, Fincher admitted that the major reason for film's failure was the producer and that he does not want to be associated with his first film at all. Nevertheless, Alien 3 is still considered by many of the critics and genre connoisseurs as a one of the best parts of the whole franchise.
After his first endeavour in the film industry Fincher returned to his safety zone, commercials and music industry. During the directing of music video for Sting’s Englishman in New York, a new script for a thriller reached his hands. Despite his uncertainty as an effect of the first attempt, Fincher decided to give film industry another chance. As it later appeared, it was one of the most influential decisions of his career. The script grabbed attention of the director, because of its dramatic and thrilling theme, which he values the most in a film. This movie opened new doors to his film-making success and created an opinion about his craft amidst stalwarts in the industry.
Seven (1995) was a film that fully introduced the typical dark atmosphere of Fincher’s body of work. In a nameless, grim town, two main characters (aspiring, young detective Mills with experienced, adamant, and strong-minded detective Somerset) are investigating a serial killer that is murdering his victims according to one specific key. The film presents Fincher’s fondness and experience in the field of music, which appears in his editing technique and opening intro. Director’s attention to details mixed with his tendency to startle the viewer is already visible in the beginning. The short intro perfectly informs the audience about the atmosphere of the whole movie by introducing a disturbing song by Nine Inch Nails. Moreover, it contains the solution to the entire plot of the film. The audience realise only at the end that the whole solution was already spoiled to them in the intro. Fincher plays around with the recurring motif of number seven - seven days, seven crimes, and the detectives’ first conversation takes place around blocks with numbers starting with seven. Name and surname of the actor playing the main antagonist did not appear on the posters, opening credits, or DVD covers, just to guard the element of surprise in the finale. During the first six days of the film plot, it rains heavily. Only on Saturday (seventh day) the sun comes up, which teases a happy ending. As befits Fincher, we are introduced to one of the most thrilling finale in film history, leaving the viewer with a thought-provoking message. Fincher rarely uses close-ups, he adapts them as a tool to gain the attention of his viewer, only when it’s important and needed. In the last scene of Seven, the camera is hand-held when presenting the detectives, but static when showing the murderer has an advantage in the ongoing situation. David Fincher made Seven with his own characteristic style and after which he was directing every two years, each of his films are a game between him and his viewers.
The Game (1997), slightly reminding us of Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999), engages the viewer in a first-person adventure-like gameplay, while the controller is safely in the capable hands of Fincher. Through the perspective of Nicholas Van Orton, Fincher immerses the viewer inside of his crude, seemingly dangerous and apparently immutable game, making the audience empathize with the protagonist. The obscurity of the agent behind the mishaps is almost ominous in its presence. Through a detailed and elaborate con that unfolds in the film, Fincher eventually pulls one on the audience too and this time giving them the happy ending that they’ve been yearning for.
The director's characteristic style and atmosphere is also present in Fight Club (1999) - an innovative thriller with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. The director mixes ironic vision of the modern world with dark humor, while telling a story of a man suffering from insomnia. The main character can’t tell the difference between what’s real and imaginary. Under these circumstances he meets Tyler Durden - a man that quickly turns out to be an ideal partner for Norton’s character. In Fight Club, Fincher uses a technique that was banned in commercial industry, where the viewer’s brain catches the image and remembers it without even realising. Tyler Durden is introduced to the audience before his official appearance by using his image four times for split second throughout the plot. This is a direct information for the viewer that Tyler Durden might have more similarities with the main character then we have primarily thought.
The Panic Room (2002), where he toys with the classical sub-genre of thriller, chamber play. With Jodie Foster playing the lead and his camera ever more intimate and up-close to an actor in all of his filmmaking years. With an eerie atmosphere of genre trope of home-invasion, though perfected by Michael Haneke in his Funny Games (1997), Fincher’s attempt is definitely a tough contender in the list. The stunning tracking shot establishing a sleeping Jodie Foster and to the blurry images of thieves trying to break-in are an eye-pleasing wonder. Although this is just an example of his many blocks that he has auteuristically conceived. The shot, informing the viewer about the sequence of the whole bomb blast in main character’s apartment in Fight Club also shares similar visual effects marvel and his ability to use VFX as a storytelling technique rather than just an eye-pleasing endeavour.
Zodiac (2007), not exactly a remake but more of a proper attempt to a based-on-true-events story, allows Fincher to indulge in a character study whose sudden obsession eventually takes over his life. This film also falls into Fincher’s pattern of alternative viewpoints, where he totally shadow-plays the killer part and gets back to his favourite process of following an investigator’s psyche and his metamorphosis into a preoccupied individual who inevitably severs ties with people around him. Nolan’s Following (1998), Aronofsky's Pi (1998), Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977) and Cronenberg's Videodrome (1983) all these movies deal with the same theme, but what Zodiac stands out in achieving is the deliberate use of single-dimensional narrative (as opposed to a surrealistic approach present in all of the above mentioned films) to the point that audience also indulge in the obsession of protagonist and are directed to feel the catharsis with the character (Jake Gyllenhaal) in the end of the movie. The convenient use of symbolism adds a layer to the film, given the true utilisation of the Omega logo in the crimes by the killer in real life.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), the only film where he steps outside of his world of dark themes and murky undertones. Time and space as a factor and its importance is reassured in the film with the use of ‘butterfly effect’ sequence. The protagonist’s unique ageing process gave the scope for Fincher to explore a relationship drama between two antithetic characters that are being haunted by time. Still employing his signature storytelling tools, Fincher manages to pull off a movie with an unusual (considering his filmography) emotional curve.
The Social Network (2010) the Zuckerberg biopic, not much like Zodiac, follows characters with different shades. A cinephile would immediately draw parallels to the character Daniel Plainview, played brilliantly by Daniel Day Lewis in arguably best film of the decade Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood (2007). Stealing ideas from friends and in the process alienating them is eloquently told by a non-linear narrative with base plot as a legal negotiation/deposition session. He leaves the american-excess part of the story to other filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, but as always follows the characters’ transformation with a sequence of carefully hand-picked events from the protagonist’s life. In this film Fincher’s inquisitive approach to characters’ true motives and intentions give a lot of scope for Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield (Eduardo Saverin being his breakout performance) to express their acting chops. Fincher explores the themes of obsession and irreverence by factoring in the controversies that the characters are surrounded by and poses the audience with the big question “was all of that even worth it?”.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) adapted from the bestselling Millenium trilogy by Stieg Larsson, Fincher’s first stab at a swedish crime thriller is a visual treat. Like Park Chan-Wook’s Vengeance trilogy (especially Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)) and Lars Von Trier’s Depression trilogy (specifically Antichrist (2009)) this movie shares similar themes and vignettes, but differs in the rhythm of execution. The steely cold-blue color palette fits perfectly into his vision for the film. Starting from the glitch-rock cover of Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin intro, which as usual gives away the whole premise of the film (laptop keyboard, dragon, Blomkvist’s smother attempt, foreshadowing the ending with contrasting crimson fire and also a perfect description of Lisbeth Salander's character). He’s in luck as the material already contains deranged characters, obsessive behaviour, flawed investigators and an eerie backdrop as a playfield. His control over his techniques, be it meticulously following movements or his precise rhythmic editing are at play, multiple times in this film. The portrayal of relationship between Blomkvist and Salander is set amidst the hunt for a killer and the process of investigation itself. Fincher’s one foot out the door approach to this relationship does justice to the novel and provides space for upcoming adaptations. The rising tension in the film, sophistications and white-knuckling, allows the viewer to be immersed into the cold and brutal mystery.
Gone Girl (2014) his last full-length drama, an adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling novel also is an investigative drama, where the characters hold similar traits to his other films. Deranged characters, investigative tropes and dark undertones repeats themselves in this film. Through and through, it’s just a repetition of all of his previous works. Speculated as just another Fincher film where he plays comfortably from his home-ground as he found a resonation in Flynn’s novel. A perfect outro in his filmography, after him claiming that he will be a taking a long hiatus before he comes back to full-length features.
Fincher broke into the television scene with Netflix’s House of Cards (2013), his take on a political espionage thriller that starts with the protagonist Frank Underwood, perfectly played by a talented Kevin Spacey, killing (putting it out of its misery) a dog struck by a car, definitively establishes the character. His take on breaking the fourth wall, invented by Woody Allen in his Annie Hall (1977), making the audience an accomplice in his conspiracies, fits perfectly to the lead character and the show itself. Ruthlessness, excess, irreverence, and obsession are recurring motifs in this show, just like his films.
Mindhunter (2017) is obviously a field day for Fincher, given it is based on real-life serial killers in America. He directed six episodes including the pilot, which opens with an aerial shot of a car making a turn and his camera exactly panning the same way. The gorgeous intro of the show with the sequence of Sony’s reel-to-reel recording equipment overlayed with parts of a murdered dead body falls very much into his signature. The intro is an abstract representation of human senses involved in a murder-investigation set piece. The show goes on to explore serial killers from the perspective of FBI profiling agents. Fincher’s adamant need for the actors playing the serial killers to mimic their real-life counterparts from video archives is rewarding in the screen.
Love, Death & Robots (2019): Fincher’s recent collaboration with Tim Miller, the director of Deadpool (2016), has turned out to be a black mark in his career. The idea to do an anthology of short-animations as an endeavour sounds amazing, but the execution of it is very scruffy to the point that critics and Fincher-fanatics have lost hope. This show involves best of animators in the industry from around the world and gives short-animation writers a platform to use the best resources from a production giant like Netflix to put out exciting content. The high praises that were sung so far, gets seemingly overshadowed by this failed attempt. Love, Death & Robots is treated with male gaze. With 18 different animation styles in each short, the character arch is just flat, emotionless and flavourless. The plot just seems like a filler for a beautiful background, with lifeless writing and a dead-pan commitment to three-act structure, which does not seem to resemble Fincher’s signature, even remotely. It is just stunning visuals with no reflective content in writing. The show just screams revolutionary visuals with a look-what-I-have-done-here attitude, often grabbing audience’s focus on visuals rather than complementing the written material. The camera movements that are present in his other films which expresses his obsession with behavior are difficult to find in this show. This, to ardent Fincher fans, seems more of a lost opportunity than a let down, as they are deprived of any sort of takeaway. At best we are introduced characters with unsubstantiated emotional rage or characters with alternative humour that does not even resonate. On the other hand, gamers and geeks are going gaga over this whole show and hailing it as the one of all time best. They are also praising Netflix for allegedly revolutionising the whole world of animation films/shows. The very fact that Fincher has attached his name to this project builds the hype around the show. For a Fincher fan, this watch-at-your-own-risk show is a sad lump in the throat.