Sunday, 12 October 2014


Do you have a favourite director?  There may be a few that you may have recognised to have achieved a significant standard in the world of film-making, but I have a favourite and it is David Fincher.  In such a short and recent period of time, he has been behind some of the best films ever made.  Straight off, I'll mention Fight Cub and Seven.

As for his background, he started early, practicing his craft amongst friends with the use of an 8mm camera.   At the age of 18, he got a job with George Lucas' special-effects company, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), between 1981 and 1983, contributing to the matte photography of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as well as The Never Ending Story, whilst serving as Assistant Cameraman on The Return of the Jedi.  After that, he went on to become a very successful figure in the direction of TV commercials and music videos before his shot at helming feature films came along.

Off the back of his achievements in the direction of music videos, he was presented with the opportunity to direct the third film in the Alien franchise, starring Sigourney Weaver.  His bad experience in the production of that film is well-documented and I will not elaborate on it further here.  It was a film that he would have walked away from had it not been a major production with a budget of $60 million in 1992.  Three years later, his proper debut arrived; the iconic serial killer horror-thriller Seven with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman.  I shouldn't need to explain Seven, apart from saying that if you haven't seen it you need to.  Seven re-established his reputation and was followed by the psychological thriller The Game, starring Michael Douglas.  That is what I see as the start of  his contribution to the comparison I'd make between him and Alfred Hitchcock.  In an elaborately plotted story, the film succeeds in making us empathise with a character that you wouldn't usually root for.  The Game continued to establish Fincher's distinctive style and, whilst entertaining enough, does not really compare to his following production.

Fight Club arrived in 1999.  The adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel wasn't seen as a major success at the box-office, but has since become a cult classic.  On release, the visceral film wasn't received well by the studio and went on to uphold their concerns with conflicting reviews and disappointing box-office results.  Similar to the journey of The Shawshank Redemption a few years earlier, the film went on to achieve overwhelming success and a cult following when released on DVD/Video.

He went on to direct 2002's Panic Room with Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart, which he acknowledged was more mainstream  compared to his other films; a popcorn movie about survival.  It's an entertaining piece about a mother and daughter hiding in their house's safe-room when criminals break in, needing to access the room in which they're hiding in order to get to the fortune they seek.  He referred to the script reminding him of aspects of 1954's Rear Window, again linking back to the comparisons I make between him and Hitchcock, with the opening titles of Panic Room sharing the style of those you'd associate with a Hitchcock thriller.

It would be five years until his next film, the masterpiece that is Zodiac.  Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr led the cast in the adaptation of the true story behind the unsolved investigation of a serial killer in San Francisco during the late 60's and 70's.  It's a detailed and intricate film, which was heavily researched  by Fincher prior to production, and the result could be described as something akin to the 1976 film All The Presidents Men.

His next film was a departure from his usual adults-only material as he teamed up with Brad Pitt for a third time on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, leading to his first Academy Award nomination for his direction.  The adaptation of an F Scott Fitzgerald short story, which had been in development since the 80's, Benjamin Button was a fantasy drama with Brad Pitt playing the lead character aging in reverse with Cate Blanchette playing the love of his life.

A couple of years later, Fincher directed what many refer to as the Facebook film, The Social Network.  Starring Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield, it tells the story of the legal battle that played out concerning the founding of the social media website.  It received universal acclaim and resulted in Fincher receiving another nod at the Oscars.  Screenwriter  Aaron Sorkin was deservedly awarded for his adaptation of the book, The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal.  The score for the film, created by Trent Reznor, from industrial rock bank Nine Inch Nails, and Atticus Ross was also awarded and resulted in the partnership producing the scores for Fincher's following films.  Their signature sound effectively drives Fincher's version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and his most recent, Gone Girl.  One of the things I love most about Fincher's Dragon Tattoo is the opening titles sequence.  It sets the tone with stunning cyberpunk visuals accompanies by Karen O's powerful vocal over a Reznor and Ross-produced rendition of Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song.  The film is technically superb and brilliantly acted by an impressive cast headed by Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.  Yet another tour de force.
His most recent release was Gone Girl, which I heard him describe in an Empire podcast as a satirical adaptation of a supermarket thriller.  I read the novel earlier this year and was gripped from start-to-finish.  Referring to Hitchcock once again, I remember thinking that it would be exactly the kind of story that he would make a good film from were he alive today.  A few months passed and Fincher's Gone Girl, from the screenplay adapted by the author of the novel, Gillian Flynn, did not disappoint.  It was everything that I had hoped it would be and I wouldn't be surprised to see it result in another Best Director nomination early next year.

David Fincher's next project will be another collaboration with Gillian Flynn; an American remake for HBO of the channel 4 TV series, Utopia.  It'll be his second television project after the brilliant Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright Netflix series, House of Cards

All of Fincher's films have a distinctive look and feel to them  and once again, in summary, to explain why he's my favourite director, his amazing CV includes: Seven, The Game, Fight Club, Panic Room, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl.

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