Monday, June 27, 2016

Director Series: DAVID FINCHER

Welcome to the first installment of the DIRECTOR SERIES, where we take a look at specific directors throughout the history of cinema and discuss their visual/storytelling style, how they have changed or influenced cinema, and how their films hold up today. This week we take a look at one of the greatest directors in the modern age...DAVID FINCHER or more specifically the topic that David Fincher is the greatest director of the modern age. 

If you have any sort of interest in cinema as a career or are just the average cinema geek, there is a 99.9% chance that you have heard the name David Fincher before. David Fincher has been around the business since 1985, but in his career he has made only ten feature films, and I would go as far to say that all ten are masterpieces. His first feature film was Alien 3, a continuation of the Alien saga, originally started by Ridley Scott, and a majority of the movie going audience and critics considered it to be a flop. David Fincher has even been quoted with saying, “..nobody hates the film more than I do..” And that’s upsetting to hear from one the most talented directors to have ever stepped behind a camera, but we all have to start somewhere.

Even though Alien 3 is considered a failure, it has every element of a Fincher film that we see in his bigger hits like Se7en, Fight Club, and The Social Network. We have the long smooth dolly camera moves, the little use of handheld camera, the lighting style, and of course the stories he’s chosen. David Fincher is probably the best technically sound director since Kubrick, but what Fincher does that Kubrick never seemed to grasp, was pick scripts/stories that are actually appealing and interesting. Kubrick’s films are technically great and I understand why we study them, but as far as content and story, they bore me right to sleep. 

Before I jump into the main selling point of why Fincher is better than most directors today, I’ll talk about why he’s technically as talented as Kubrick. Fincher hates the handheld, you see it maybe once or twice in every film. Fincher is all about grace and perfection. Everything in his films happen just kind of perfectly. All of the events that occur, occur right as the camera is viewing them, even if we are in a completely different city at the time. Fincher understands the concept of what to show the audience and what not to show. We see characters discover certain things that they aren’t meant to discover right as the villain in the film appears at the front door. Fincher’s filmmaking style is intelligent and graceful, which mimics the character’s in his stories. They are also intelligent and graceful in the way they go about their lives. 

Fincher is a fan of only using two colors when it comes to lighting. Yellow and blue. Almost every single Fincher film follows the yellow or the blue color pattern. But each color is just slightly desaturated, we’re getting a more dark blue and yellow. Darker blue represents wisdom, and intelligence, which coincides with the themes of his films, and a darker yellow represents caution, sickness, and jealousy. So in Fincher’s world, the color of the lights literally revolves around what is going on inside of the mind’s of his characters. So technically, we see the world of Fincher represented by the lighting, and the events that occur inside of the world through the lens of the camera at the exact time they occur.

Fincher also likes to let the audience figure out what is important to the story. Fincher’s inserts and close ups and very unique, you can compare them to say a Coen closeup and you can absolutely tell the difference. But the longer Fincher’s career has gone on, we see fewer and fewer close ups. When directors go to the close up their usually telling the audience “Look here, this is important, quick look before I cut to something else.” But Fincher is intelligent, so he makes his films not necessarily for intelligent people, but for people who will pay attention for the entire duration of the film. If you look away for a moment in a Fincher film, you might miss something important. Fincher doesn’t always go to the close up when something is important, he would rather show you pieces of information in different singles, two shots, or wide shots and let you put the pieces together. Fincher is one of the best filmmakers that utilizes the theory of Sergei Eisenstein and the Kuleshov Effect, editing is the final touch to the technical brilliance of Fincher. Fincher’s editing style has typically remained the same since Alien 3. Even in his more action heavy films like Fight Club, Panic Room, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. We don’t get the quick fast paced cuts like in other action sequences, Fincher is actually a fan of slowing it down during action. Like when The Narrator is beating Angel Face to a bloody pulp in Fight Club, in Panic Room when Meg Altman makes a run for the phone, Fincher slows down the footage basically slapping the audience in the face saying “Pay attention here! This stuff is crucial!”

A good comparison of editing styles are the Coens. The Coens tend to keep the editing pace with the style of the scene, so if there is distress in a conversation the Coens keep up with the distress, and their action scenes are like typical action scenes. Now I’m not saying the Coens are bad directors because of this, the Coens are actually a few of my favorites, they just have a different approach of showing an audience what’s happening then Fincher. Fincher keeps things flowing at a steady pace, it never speeds up or slows down. We stay at one pace the whole film.

But why is Fincher the best? Is it because of this technical style? The technical aspect only adds to his title, but his characters are what makes him the greatest director of the modern age. Fincher is the most talented character director since Orson Welles. Fincher is all about how the characters interact with each other and how certain character’s personalities or ego’s collide with other character’s personalities or ego’s. But why does that make him the best? It keeps us interested, in most Fincher films, we are thrown into the story after events have taken place to set things into motion. We don’t start at “down at the police station” we start at “meanwhile back at the ranch.” 

Fincher let’s us see change or evolvement of a certain personality “a snobby rich guy” “a wiz computer programmer” “a private detective” we get all of these pieces of information in the story through the characters and that is what makes Fincher’s characters interesting. We see them unfold and we either root for them or hate them which keeps us interested for the duration of the film. A good comparison I like to make for how characters make things interesting is Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu. Innaritu is focused on the ego of himself as a film maker, not the ego of his characters. And that’s not a bad thing, Innaritu still makes good films, just not on the level of Fincher. Fincher isn’t obsessed with himself, he’s obsessed with his characters and how we view them as an audience which is what distinguishes him from the competition. 

So the next time you watch a Fincher film, pay attention the whole time. Look at the camera moves, the lighting, how the characters interact, and you might just find yourself a new favorite director.

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