There are cinematographers who became cinematographers because they loved the voodoo of it. They love it when the director says to them, “Right down that corner, will we be able to see that or is that gonna kind of melt away?” And they get to go, “Just wait until tomorrow. It’s gonna be amazing. You’re gonna love it.” And I’ve had those experiences. I’ve sat through dailies and gone, “Oh!” You know, some of Darius Khondji’s work on Se7en. You just go “Wow.” But there is an equal amount of times that you go, you’ll look at it and say, “What the fuck?” - Director David Fincher, on shooting with film stock, SIde by Side (2012)
Director David Fincher, in the DVD commentary for Se7en, mentions something that he learned while working at special effects company Industrial Light and Magic: that a director should look at a scene with the left eye for composition, because it goes to your right brain. Focus or technical side of a shot should be looked at with the right eye or left brain, as it’s more of a technical eye (x).
The crowded urban streets filled with noisy denizens and an oppressive rain that always seems to fall without respite were integral parts of Se7en, as Fincher wanted to show a city that was “dirty, violent, polluted, often depressing. Visually and stylistically, that’s how we wanted to portray this world. Everything needed to be as authentic and raw as possible.” To this end, Fincher turned to production designer Arthur Max to create a dismal world that often eerily mirrors its inhabitants. “We created a setting that reflects the moral decay of the people in it”, says Max. “Everything is falling apart, and nothing is working properly.” The film’s brooding, dark look was achieved through a chemical process called bleach bypass, wherein the silver in the film stock was not removed, which in turn deepened the dark, shadowy images in the film and increased its overall tonal quality (x).
In the film Se7en, Gwyneth Paltrow was David Fincher’s first choice for the part of Brad Pitt’s wife, having impressed him with her work in Flesh and Bone. Paltrow was initially not interested so Fincher had to ask her then boyfriend - Brad Pitt - to get her to come in and meet with him (x).
For me a movie has always been the theatrical experience, going into a sensory-deprivation environment with more people than you could healthily know in your social life. Strangers. And having the lights go out and having the lights go up on a portal that gives you insight and entertainment and controls what you hear and see for two hours. That communal experience is a movie to me. That’s half of the experience.
In the 1995 film Se7en, actor Leland Orser, in preparation for his traumatic scene in the interrogation room, would breathe in and out very rapidly so that his body would be overly saturated with oxygen, giving him the ability to hyperventilate. He also did not sleep for a few days to achieve his character’s disoriented look (x).
DAVID FINCHER: A FILM TITLE RETROSPECTIVE
Check out this video from Art of the Title devoted to the stylings of filmmaker David Fincher. Read the accompanying article here as well for some insightful information from the director regarding his aesthetic choices for title sequences.
In this clip from the documentary Side by Side, which hits theaters August 17, filmmaker David Fincher talks about the difference between the way directors and actors approach movies.