David Fincher as an Auteur #2

My second post discussing David Fincher as an auteur will focus on his depressing and negative endings which often show failure, sacrifice or suicide. It is a common thing for Fincher to involve himself with a film that is actually gritty, grim and dark such as Se7en, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and even The Game; however the endings and climax are always very important.

Fincher’s first directing role in Alien 3 shows this, it’s a cruel horrible world inside this prison where you are only waiting for your imminent death which is slow and tiring. An alien creature invades along with a lost and injured Ripley, a female isolated in this male dominated society and world which sets up a very harsh storyline. However at the end of the film there is no victory or success for either the prisoners or Ripley who we follow throughout, following a spray of guns the prisoners are shot and Ripley commits sacrificial suicide as she jumps into a pit of burning flames. As an audience we have nothing to be happy about, our main characters are all dead and with no victory showing how rubbish and cruel the situation was.

The same feeling is portrayed in the ending of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; throughout the film we follow the subplot which shows the growing relationship between our two main characters Mikael and Lisbeth. Lisbeth is someone who we feel very attached too and sympathetic towards, however at the end of the film dressed up and ready to meet Mikael she witnesses him leave with another woman leaving her distressed and upset. It is heart-breaking to watch, again there is no positive ending for the film or our character showing just how cruel this world is and society is.

Se7en and Fight Club two of Fincher’s big classics and all-time greats also follow this same outlook and perspective, mainly focusing on suicide. At the end of Se7en our main character witnesses his wife’s head decapitated in box and then gets himself arrested for shooting her murderer which is the serial killer being chased throughout the film. We can only assume that Mills is going to spend the rest of his life in a prison cell, alone and hopeless yet he knew this would be the chosen path when he pulled the trigger on John Doe therefore technically committing suicide as he kills of his future. Fight Club has the similar ending after an emotional and somewhat crazy journey our main character stands with a gun in his mouth ready to end it all, the same situation in The Game. Fincher creates this very depressing feeling of injustice, giving the message that the good guys don’t win in society. Se7en even ends with Somerset’s lines “The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.” I agree with the second part.” This sums up the films and in a way Fincher’s message.

It is fair to say that Fincher has a negative look on society and life in general especially in his first set of directing roles. It seems that if you want Fincher behind your film, you better make sure there are no happy endings and it isn’t a romantic comedy.  Negative films and depressing endings are definitely and unarguably a trademark of David Fincher, if you didn’t see my last post on his representation of women click here.

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David Fincher as an Auteur #1

Just before I review Se7en the next film on my list, I thought it would be good to analyse Fincher as an auteur and pick out a key trademark in between my reviews. So here is my first obvious and somewhat brutal trademark of Fincher – his absolute expressed hate for women. Now thinking back to any films in general that you’ve watched it is a common occurrence to have a woman playing the damsel in distress and for her to get injured and hurt, but it seems that Fincher goes that little step further in ALL of his films to get across the message that its males that dominate society.

His first major film whilst being in the prestigious and important director’s seat was Alien 3 (1992) where he first instigated this hatred for women. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) crashing onto an all-male prison island is completely isolated and is in a society completely dominated by men. She is stripped of her femininity by appearance and is treated poorly as she is undermined throughout. She is the only female character in this film and despite battling this Alien creature showing some signs of strength she is at threat to male dominance constantly. The ending of the film despite a heroic sacrifice by Ripley shows that she didn’t win her battle as she leaps into a pit of fire not only killing herself but the unborn queen alien. The overall message of the film seems to sum up that a male’s world is brutal and violent, when women simply enter this world they can’t win, they’re hopeless. It might seem much read into and a vague judgement, or maybe it is all just a coincidence?

Se7en (1995) Fincher’s second most popular film, it follows similarly the same idea of Alien 3. In the criminal world it is dominated by males, there is not a single female police officer or woman with a high-status or role within the film. Once again this male dominated society is absolutely brutal with murders and serial killers, something a woman surely couldn’t handle? – Well according to Fincher. Detective Mill’s (Brad Pitt) wife is the main female character within the film; we only see her do one or two things throughout? And one is occupying that feminine role within the kitchen as the men do the hard gritty jobs. In the final scene as none of us can surely forget, we see her head in a box as John Doe completes his final sin. Completely uncalled for, no reason whatsoever that she was killed other than to fulfil John Doe’s plan. However and despite this coincidence again, just like Alien 3 our only female main character is dead and can’t survive in this male dominated society.

The Game (1997), it is a strange film to say the least as most characters play a double-role, one in this fake world “the game” and the other in real life reality that doesn’t become too clear till the end. Our main protagonist is a man who is in the business world and once again no female characters are competing in this society, males dominate completely. The main female character is Christine and even though she is playing her role in “the game” she is presented as highly promiscuous, deceitful and manipulative.  Even after the game has finished she still retains no power what so ever in this world.

Skipping Fight Club (1999) as the film itself presents too many things to even contemplate thinking about and looking into we jump to Panic Room (2002). A criminal world is again laid out for us, one dominated by males. The story plays very much to the damsel in distress stereotype; it labels our two female characters as weak and vulnerable for the majority of the film. It sets up this world where our main character Meg is in an absolutely fragile state recently divorced, an alcoholic (by the first two scenes) and relying on money from her ex-husband she is totally dependent. Alone and in charge with responsibility this brutal male world victimises her and her fragile severely diabetic daughter. Burglars, part of a criminal world (male dominated) break into their house and take advantage. Okay okay, two get killed and the other arrested as the female characters fight back however throughout the film they are vulnerable and still dependant on males. The daughter’s life is saved by the burglar and the intervention of Meg’s ex-husband causes helpful delays. The main message though is that women are inferior to males in society.

Finally, as if I carry on much more the term “male dominance” may become somewhat hypnotising I shall skip to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) a film actually based on book that was once drafted “Men who hate women”.  We follow a male journalist who’s in an industry that has become very financial and business like, once again something that women can’t handle. The only professional woman in the industry is his boss, who rather unprofessionally he has an affair with.  Our main female character is a subject of constant pain that is inflicted by males. A rape victim, and a sufferer of a hard life due to her abusive father she becomes a private investigator. Again isolated, socially and physically. Everyone who she reports to for either governmental or occupational reason is a male and one who eventually rapes her. The story itself follows a criminal case that investigates a series of murders where young girls and women are victims of brutal killings and rape. In the end of the film there is a happy fairy-tale ending set up as our main characters journalist Mikel and private investigator Lisbeth seem to be in a relationship, however as Lisbeth goes to meet him she witnesses him with his boss, riding off with her dreams dashed and once again alone in this male dominated world the film ends.

This is just all analytical reasoning, but it seems fair to say especially from my perspective that David Fincher likes his films to show male dominance and to play on the stereotype that it is females that need saving. Obviously this is a very controversial look, but nevertheless one that I am currently studying and that see quite frequently appearing and popular. Next time you watch a David Fincher film, future releases such as Gone Girl maybe? Or just an old classic bear in mind this trademark and see whether it fits.

Everyone’s thoughts and opinions? Discuss.

Alien³ (1992)

Genre: Sci-fi, Action, Thriller

Director: David Fincher

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton

Rating: ★★★

Alien³ is one of the first major films David Fincher directed, although some may regard this as a mistake made by the young auteur it was certainly a sign of a young growing talent. Alien³ is the third in the Alien series, a franchise that was eventually stretched too far and this film only hints at that future downfall, however it is not a “failure” nor a “flop” but not quite a “classic” either, more in the middle at “good”.  The two previous films Alien and Aliens were highly successful so it was a bold choice for Alien³ to become so different yet at the same time all so familiar. It left a divide in viewers, those who felt betrayed and those who were intrigued.

The opening scene of Alien³ wipes out all that was built in the previous films as we focus on a deserted abandoned Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) who has just lost what she spent the previous films fighting for. Waking up from hyper-sleep her pod has crashed after escaping the Alien planet, all of her crew including the girl she saved in Aliens are dead or missing.  The pod has crashed onto an all-male prison island, but being surrounded by lip smacking convicted rapists and murderers soon appear to be the least of Ripley’s worries as the familiar Alien has found a new home in the prison and sets its sights on the inhabitants. This sets up for a very tasty reunion between Ripley and the maturing Alien.

Picking the prisoners off slowly the Alien becomes apparent to Ripley but the male prisoners are much in denial. Eventually after revealing itself the fight becomes clear for the prisoners who prepare to capture the Alien that has been lurking above their heads. With little action until the stunning climax we fuel of subplots and underdeveloped storylines. Ripley gets caught up in a love affair with doctor Clemens (Charles Dance) and if it wasn’t for an intervention from deluded prisoner Golic (Paul McGann) then the film would have ended at the half way point, but rather quickly the two characters get axed or in this case dragged, swallowed and regurgitated. With the Alien still roaming and threatening the extinction of all who lives on the prison island Ripley decides to finish the chase for good, but is more than surprised when the Alien doesn’t attack her. Finding out more than she could ever imagined happened whilst  in hyper-sleep it fuels for the rest of the film and it gets much more personal for Ripley as she battle against the Alien, the soon approaching company and what’s inside her.

Alien³ for me is a very predictable and has been very badly written at times, with minimal or short-lived storylines that seem to be added for a few more extra minutes running time. The action that was constantly present in the previous two films of the Alien series seems to disappear until the very end, with the film focusing on the dark atmosphere and the eerie feel presenting itself more like a horror rather than a true sci-fi. Although there is a new way of approaching the film that makes it so different from Alien and Aliens it is still in some ways the same narrative but with more new characters and a completely new environment.

It is the amazing climax that lifts this films creditability. Throughout the visual aspect of Alien³ is very good and the ending would still hold its ground against some modern day films, as the use of CGI is outstanding. Explosions and fire bring the much needed action and the positives to this film, the special effects and visual effects crew deserve a lot of credit. The cinematography was also creditable with Alex Thomson working alongside Fincher mastering the ending.

Despite being a novice film when compared to the likes of Se7en and The Game there is still a feel of David Fincher about Alien³. The typical green and blue colour pallet present in most of his work establishes the depressing run down feel to the film, limiting colour and creating darkness. You also gather this atmosphere of an eternal doom and a sense of hopelessness. Despite some bad critics there was certainly a lot of potential shown by and from David Fincher.

Alien³ is let down by the limited and underdeveloped story that doesn’t reflect how good visually this film was, despite being brave and bold it doesn’t keep up with the standard the series kept up previously. Sigourney Weaver the only main character, adapted well once again creating that gritted teeth hardness we come to expect, but it was the crew that deserve most the credit. This film isn’t terrible it just equally isn’t great, the slow burning approach is used and the ending does relieve some of that boredom experienced leaving you entertained. It’s something you could easily watch but with that in mind there are far better films out there.