måndag 12 december 2011

What can be seen from above?

It seems that my favourite film critic, David Denby of the New Yorker, has already seen and reviewed David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, one of this year's most eagerly awaited film. But the review in question is not in the latest issue of the New Yorker, or at least not in the Nov.28th issue that has landed in my letter box. But I like to wait, and sometimes I even like to just continue waiting, pretending that the timing is not quite right. Lingering on like that has made me a very poor festival goer, and a good customer to our local dvd-store. Sometimes I never see the film I've been pining for, which makes me a rather silly movie buff. But sometimes the text you read about a movie is better than seeing the actual film. So a review by David Denby is worth waiting for.
David Fincher tells stories of urban dystopias. The urban setting of Se7en is a bleak and indifferent place, where a cold rain falls all the time, as if not even angels' tears could move the people living in this city. In many ways the city ressembles New York or perhaps Chicago, at least for someone who only knows these places from the movies. The city remains unnamed in the film, but the script writer apparently draw on some unpleasant memories he had from living in New York.
In Zodiac (2007), the urban setting is on the west coast. The city is San Fransisco which is clearly stated in the film as it is based on the story of the real Zodiac killer and the letters he sent to the San Fransisco Chronicle. There is more sun and day time scenes than in Se7en, but the atmosphere created by Fincher is still cold and claustrophobic, especially in the horrible murder scene when a young couple is attacked while on a picnic at a beautiful lake.
There are shots in Fincher's film that remind me of Clint Eastwood, particularly in Mystic River and The Changeling, with lonely cars slowly moving along lonely city streets, seen from above, like a victim being tracked by a predator, or a heartless God, looking down on the people from high above, and letting tragedy strike without interfering. When the eye is the camera, one can never be sure with Fincher, or Eastwood, whether identification is really something you want or not. Do I really want to share the same vision and views as the killer in the story? If I can identify with the evil one, what does that make me?
Fincher doesn't let me figure this out. His films are often deeply unsettling, like Eastwoods. Although Eastwood's films carry as well a message of omnipotence and righteousness: his heroes and heroines are always right. Fincher's heroes and heroines never share that kind of power. They are more like pawns in a strange game that someone else plays. When they move about in the unfriendly cities, they are like rats in a lab. There is always a greater scheme being laid out somewhere else. Zodiac's letters tease with their possibility of an explanation. But like the scheme of the seven deadly sins, it's more likely a diversion. It hides more than it reveals.
Strangely enough, the pattern of the hostile cities and pawn-like main characters, repeats itself in The Social Network, where there is no evil character or obsessed murderer. But when seen in the context of Fincher's other work, The Social Network becomes an even more unsettling film about the ability of one man to do evil deeds, as the film is about the invention of facebook and communication being established as something which is best done with the help of computers.

I don't know what David Fincher has seen in Stockholm, a much smaller town than any of the cities he has told stories from before. Also, most of the story of The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo is actually not set in an urban setting, but in the good old Swedish countryside where apparently maniacs can go about their business without no one knowing anything. But I hope he has seen something, from his place way up high above, and that he can, perhaps for the first time in his career, show us hell in a very small place.

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