Se7en, 1995, US, 127 mins. Directed by David Fincher.
I like to precede my reviews with a little grounding of where my head was at when I went into it. Opinions can’t entirely be divorced from the circumstances in which they were made, just like how no art exists in a vacuum – just dust hahaha! Cut this part
I watched Se7en late at night in my home on a laptop. I live in a fifth-floor apartment in a country whose language I don’t know enough of to adequately phone for help in case anyone wanted to wander in and viciously murder me to death. What I’m getting at is that while I was probably particularly susceptible to its horror elements at the time I watched it, Se七en is still decisively a psych-thriller.
Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are detectives in an unnamed American city, but I’m pretty sure it’s Hell, NC. Mr Pitt is a rough-and-tumble up-and-coming doesn’t-play-the-the-book go-get-’em no-nonsense ppffffffff
Mr Freeman, on the other hand, is literally a week away from retirement, which just so happens to coincide with a murderer choosing to kill someone daily in a fashion corresponding to one of the seven deadly sins, such as a man force-fed until his stomach bursts (gluttony). Will they find the killer before he completes his run of seven? Or who cares we’re all going to die anyway
As you’ve probably gathered, the film is just relentlessly grim. The few moments of joy it allows its characters (and, indeed, the audience) serve only to make the horror of the rest of their existences all the more suffocating. It’s always raining, very little seems to happen by daylight, and interiors are lit like dungeons that double as sex shops as a side hustle. Reflecting its seven deadly sins theme, the film really does run the spectrum of negative emotions through its two detectives – everything from petty daily work frustrations, to the grander sense of knowing nothing you do even puts a dent in the grimy horror of humanity’s nature.
Sevsevenen‘s greatest strength is that it really does absorb you in its seedy world even while your senses try to resist it. It’s an especially neat trick while you’re watching it. After you’ve finished, your brain can parse everything. In retrospect, part of me wants to complain that the chemistry between Pitt and Freeman sometimes feels a little too binary, or that the dark setting feels overwrought but while you’re watching it makes an impact as palpable as a punch in the stomach. I don’t think anyone involved is trying to say this is how the world really is. It’s selling a concentrated blast of bad feelings, nothing more, and it does that well. S373n‘s glass isn’t just half-empty, it’s been shattered and used to slice open a baby’s throat to make some nihilistic point about humanity’s inner evil, and as long as its playing, you buy it.
The ending ‘what’s in the box?’ sequence is as masterful as it is reprehensible, and is the most famous part for good reason. If you haven’t seen the film yet, pay attention to how the camera is moving. Tight, tripod-bound stable close-ups of John Doe contrast with Freeman and Pitt running and spinning in front of a handheld camera (something David Fincher doesn’t use often at all). It does a great job of both subconsciously controlling your emotions and reversing who really holds the power in the scene.
Further: the title sequence is infinitely rewatchable. Lots of borderline subliminal imagery and unsettling audio. You could freeze-frame it at any moment and find something interesting or disturbing. Here’s a good essay on it (spoiler warning).
In conclusion – I give it a ‘Se7en’!!!!!! Easily the best movie featuring bladed dildos you can buy in an HMV. While making unflinching eye contact with the cashier