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Se7en (1995)

From the DVD Shelf: Se7en (1995)

I saw Se7en on the big screen back in 1995, and it freaked the hell out of me.  I’m not sure what prompted me to go see it in the first place, but I know that I was entirely unprepared for the brutal film that unfolded before my eyes.  It was tough, shocking stuff, and while I really respected the film I never felt any desire to go back and watch it again.

Almost a decade and a half later, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and The Social Network have cemented my opinion of David Fincher as one of the finest American directors working today.  With the release of Se7en on blu-ray, I thought it would be interesting to give the film another look.

Even so many years later, Se7en remains as punishing a movie-watching experience as it was back in 1995.  There is some truly vile, stomach-turning stuff on display in the film.  Some of which we see on-screen (I remember my first glimpse of that horribly obsese corpse — the first murder victim discovered at the start of the movie — from 1995, and I found it just as unsettling the second time around), and some of which is just discussed (such as the terrible fate of the prostitute).  But the two blend together into an almost unrelenting parade of horrors, from the first frame to the very last.

All of which, of course, was certainly the intention of David Fincher and his collaborators.  Watching the film, today, I can step back a bit from what I’m watching on-screen to recognize the extraordinary skill on display by the filmmakers.  On crisp blu-ray, Se7en is absolutely beautiful in its unremitting ugliness.  The filmmakers have created a word of unending gloom, from the seemingly never-ending rain in the unnamed city in which the action takes place to the sickly yellow light of Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman)’s refrigerator.  The oppressive urban decay and the constant rain remind me distinctly of Blade Runner, and there’s even a great shot of Brad Pitt running across a street and jumping over cars, his weapon drawn, while the rain continues to pour down, that is a direct quotation of an iconic shot of Harrison Ford from that film.  But Mr. Fincher and his team have gone beyond homage to create a distinctly real, potent environment that is unique to this film.  This city breathes and sweats, and we (and the film’s characters) feel it as an oppressive force.  In Se7en, the city is as much the enemy as the serial-murdering John Doe.

Mr. Fincher has come to be well-known for his meticulous attention to detail, and that is on fine display throughout … [continued]