My weekend was full of sleep, coughing and just vegetating in front of my bedroom tv as I tried to get better from my bout of the cold and flu. For some reason or another AMC channel decided to hold a mini-marathon of David Fincher’s classic neo-noir thriller, Seven, and I must say that I probably saw all three straight showings before sleep finally took over. It surely made for some very unusual, drug-induced dreams.
I’ve always seen Seven as Fincher at his most exploitative best. If there was ever a modern grindhouse exploitation film of the past twenty years I would have to consider Seven as one of them. From start to finish the film just felt grimy and made one feel dirty just for having seen it. Take away all the gloss and veneer afforded Fincher due to modern film technology and techniques this film was grindhouse to its core. No better scene exemplifies and solidifies Seven as a grindhouse exploitation film than it’s shocking, nihilistic ending which bucked traditional Hollywood happy ending (or at least and ambiguous one).
It’s been made famous due to the powerful performances from the three leads who dominate the scene. It is almost played off like a stage play with some gorgeous camera work from cinematographer Darius Khondji switching from Morgan Freeman to Kevin Spacey to Brad Pitt with mathematical precision as the scene unfolds through very strong dialogue by screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker.
The performances shown by Spacey is both chilling and otherworldly as the sociopathic John Doe urging Pitt’s Det. Mills to become wrath and punish him for his sin of envy. Looking helpless and desperate is Freeman’s Det. Somerset trying to talk some sense and decency to the rapidly unraveling Mills who has just learned that what is inside the box he’s been screaming for is his wife’s head.
The fact that the unfolded and ended the way it did honors the grindhouse sensibilities of past exploitation films where the good guys never always win and even when they do it’s at a very heavy cost to the victor. This climactic ending to Seven is so nihilistic that when the film was first shown in 1995 many walked out grumbling at such a dark and heavy ending. Where was the Hollywood happy ending everyone was so used to. There was no cavalry charging last second to save the day. No deus ex machina intervening to show that Mill’s wife was still alive. No, Fincher and crew knew they had something special in their hands and went full tilt to see it through.
It’s no wonder I still consider Seven to be David Fincher’s best film to date.