Over the last 18 years, David Fincher has become a serious player in the filmmaking world, and it’s not difficult to understand the reason why. With his latest highly-anticipated film, The Social Network, released worldwide last month, it seemed prudent to take a retrospective look at some of the highlights of his career so far, and perhaps shed some light on his work.
Recently, when I’ve tried to engage others in conversation about Fincher’s work, most people have replied ‘Who?’, only to find that they know more of his films than they initially expect. Naturally, instead of reeling off his entire filmography, I opted to utter one single phrase in reply:
“The first rule of Fight Club is: You don’t talk about Fight Club.”
And their eyes would light up, only to mention one or two other films directed by Fincher that they have also seen. It seems to me that many people know the films, but don’t necessarily know the genius behind them. An issue I am sure applies to many other successful directors in the film industry today.
An even lesser known fact, however, is that Fincher’s work as a director is not only confined to cinema, but has extended to music videos and even advertising. In the 1980’s, before Alien 3 (the less said about that, the better), Fincher made his bones directing videos for high-profile artists such as Madonna, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and even Roy Orbison. More famously, he directed an anti-smoking advert depicting a foetus smoking a cigarette. His unique and controversial methods only served to bring him to greater heights and to his first directorial accomplishment – Se7en.
A truly dark, subversive psychological thriller complete with neo-noir undertones, Se7en, for me at least, is nothing short of a masterpiece. It stars Morgan Freeman and three-time collaborator Brad Pitt as two detectives hunting a serial killer, whose modus operandi involves using his victims as embodiments of the seven deadly sins. Both a critical and commercial success, Se7en proved that Fincher was a force to be reckoned with. Sadly, to write anything more about the true genius that lies at the heart of Se7en would be to spoil one of the greatest moments in cinema history. As such, I will merely say that Se7en remains one of my favourite films of all time; its grisly and altogether bleak view of society served as an excellent platform on which to base his future work.
Of course, it would be a sin to not mention anything more about Fight Club. Without any shadow of a doubt his most famous film, Fight Club has become a cult phenomenon in the years since its release – a true testament to Fincher’s prowess as a director, especially considering it was rejected and ignored by critics and audiences alike upon its release in 1999. On the surface, Fight Club chronicles the exploits of a nameless, everyman protagonist played by Edward Norton, who, tired of his mundane lifestyle, allows himself to be lead down a rabbit-hole by the enigmatic Tyler Durden (played by Brad Pitt). However, it is impossible not to notice the controversial message of anti-consumerism that courses through the veins of this film. Equal parts action, black comedy, mystery and thriller – Fight Club is a volatile cocktail that arguably stands in a genre of its own.
In the last decade, however, Fincher has expanded his repertoire from the dark and subversive. He has seen success with both Panic Room and Zodiac, and more recently with the epic love story of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – a film that indicated a great change in pace for Fincher, showcasing his versatility as a director.
The question remains, then, what can we expect from The Social Network? At a glance, it seems like a strange choice for Fincher, or indeed any director to make a film based on the beginnings of Facebook and the people behind it. However, it does boast some real talent, and has already garnered universal acclaim overseas. Aaron Sorkin, the brains behind the TV series The West Wing, wrote the screenplay, Jesse Eisenberg (think Michael Cera, but more serious) plays the lead role of Mark Zuckerberg, and Kevin Spacey is also a producer. With Fincher at the helm, I feel we can be confident that this will be one of the more superior films released this year.