Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Seven - movie review

Seven, David Fincher's 1995 film, is one of the best serial killer films ever made. I first watched it on television a couple of years after its release, and although I was impressed by the famous and memorable final scene, it didn't make quite as much of an impact on me as it should have done. Probably I was distracted by other things - a reminder that reviews are not just about the subject of the review, but the mood of the reviewer at the time. Anyway, I've watched it again, more carefully, and thought it superb, even though I knew how it would end.

For those who haven't seen it, the story brings together, in a grim and un-named city, a young, aggressive cop and a wise partner who is on the point of retirement and escape from the city. This duo is played by Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. Their performances are excellent and they work so well together. Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Spacey are two more superstars in the cast. There's also an appearance from Richard Roundtree.

The theme of the murders, is "the seven deadly sins". One thing I like about the superb screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker is that it doesn't offer a trite whodunit, but rather raises questions about what it is that makes us human and sane, and the nature of evil. The skill of the actors and of Fincher bring out these qualities more effectively than almost any other serial killer film I've seen. The only downside is that the success of Seven has led to countless attempts to borrow from it, and the films that have resulted have often been indifferent, and gruesome for the sake of it. Seven is gruesome, admittedly, and the final scene apparently caused the studio much angst. But the film would certainly have been poorer without it.

I've never written a serial killer novel, partly because I think so many stories of this kind seem derivative and lacking freshness. I'd only want to go down that road if I could come up with something that felt fresh in some way. In the meantime, whilst I give many serial killer film a miss, I'm really glad I had another look at Seven.


J F Norris said...

The idea of the killer executing people who deserved to die for their indulgences was handled well but I don't think it was all that original. I've since found several vintage crime novels that also explored that idea. The art of murder, an idea first written about by DeQuincey, and since taken up innumerable times by many crime writers is another facet that made this film fascinating and disturbing.

SEVEN was not only a crime movie it is deserving of being called a horror movie. We never really saw any of the murders committed, only the aftermath. The viewer had to imagine what the victims endured. Much of horror lies not in overtly violent displays of torture, carnage and blood spilling but in the imagination of the viewer.

Martin Edwards said...

John, that's exactly right, and this element of imagination is what sets this film apart from the more exploitative films that are so common. Of course, the same principle applies to fiction, and again I find the suggested horrors of the best books unforgettable, the graphic scenes of lesser books much less impressive.