Se7en (1995) was great - unsettling, but great. The literary undertones were fantastic. I found particularly interesting the two “villains” of the movie: obviously, first and foremost, John Doe, but secondly the ever omnipresent, occasionally mentioned, oppressive and daunting city - the one for which Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow) expresses her hatred for.
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The title sequence, in particular, was one of my favourite parts of the film, particularly because of its edgy, artistic nature. It was especially interesting with the revelation after watching the film that the title sequence was in fact, all about John Doe, and his workings. David Fincher, the director of the movie, commented:
The sequence for Se7en did very important non-narrative things; […] We also lacked the feeling of John Doe, the villain, who just appeared 90 minutes into the movie. It was oddly problematic, you just needed a sense of what these guys were up against. […] Figure out a way for it to involve John Doe, to show that somewhere across town somebody is working on some really evil shit. I don’t want it to be just flipping through pages, as beautiful as they are.”
The title sequence is fantastic - because it shows these images of a hand writing, striking out letters in books, or the eyes on a photograph, and it is done in a way the audience recognises to be unsettling - from the gritty atmosphere, the quiet almost shrieking music, the blinking images and letters, the occasional flashes of light.
But, as it is the title sequence, the audience is robbed of the reason, the why, behind the unsettling nature. The sequence also sets the tone for the rest of the movie - a film that plays its cards close to its chest, and reveals not only the climax, but also the reason for the beginning at its end. (Consider the bandaged fingers we see in the title sequence, sewing something - and then the realisation about mid-way through the film, when it is revealed that John Doe has been cutting the skin off his fingers so that he leaves no fingerprints anywhere.)
GIF by drunkandblogging.
And the tone of the film is marked by its location and its setting: in particular, the city that Somerset (Morgan Freeman) tells Tracy is “no place to start a family”. It’s a crowded city, full of people, who are not exactly quite - and it’s almost always raining. It never stops raining, which is strange for a city.
It’s a very dark - literally, in this case - film, by which I mean that the colours are muted, the film is visually full of shadows, and there is a general sense of - not otherworldliness, in this case, but a too harsh reality, creepily reminiscent of John Doe, and the people he murderer, especially when he said: “Only in a world this shitty, could you say that these were innocent people and try to keep a straight face - but that’s the point, we see a deadly sin on every street corner”.
The film’s brooding look was in part done through bleach bypass - a chemical process which adds the tonal quality and makes for deeper shadows. Production designer Arthur Max had this to say:
“We created a setting that reflects the moral decay of the people in it. Everything is falling apart, and nothing is working properly.”