Watching: David Fincher

Gone are the days of playing croquet with one another over a glass of ice-tea. Gone are the refreshing trips to rocky outcrops with a sketchpad in our hand and peace in our mind. We now spend our days on couches, in our beds, and on our phones, watching vacuous tripe and live-tweeting it as we go. Along with orange, gluttony and sedentariness are the new black. I’m not a saint – I love a good bit of American Ninja Warrior as much as the next lanky teen – but surely some value can be slipped in somewhere along the way. Who can we turn to for good, wholesome, truly artistic visual content? Ladies and Gentlemen, David Fincher is our saviour.

Though he was off to a rocky start with Alien 3, which he confesses that he “hates more than anybody,” there is no denying that Fincher is one of the most successful and influential directors of our time. His craft is honed to perfection, and with his films alone grossing over $1.5 billion USD – that’s the one with nine zeros – you can have confidence that most anything he touches will turn to gold. There’s a facet of Fincher’s work for everybody. If you enjoyed a young Madonna, Fincher directed three of her most successful music videos. Sure, she’s passé by now, but the Vogue music video is timeless, right? No? Moving on. Alongside these, he crafted a number of music videos for artists like The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson. His dark and sybaritic video for Timberlake’s ‘Suit & Tie’ recently won a Grammy award for Best Music Video. This plethora of work helped develop his iconic style, which he continues to translate on to his ever-growing oeuvre.

A typical Fincher film is visually rich and gritty. Think back to his icons: Se7en, Fight Club, The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - they’re all gorgeous. The blacks are cold and enveloping, rays of light piercing through to draw your attention to one of Fincher’s meticulously arranged scenes. In Se7en, the filthy, grotesque sets are lit with gloomy and chaotic shadows that emphasise the overarching unsettling tone of the world. While Fincher now shoots on digital cameras, namely the Red One and Red Epic, his training was with celluloid and film, which imposed restrictions that he still adheres to. Film stock is expensive, and so you couldn’t waste time getting a lot of coverage for a scene. Rather you had to pick the perfect shot and go for it. Contrary to the adage that there are a million ways to shoot a scene, Fincher says “there are two, maybe. And the other one is wrong.” In his detailed The Social Network behind-the-scenes ‘featurette,’ Fincher calls out almost comical directions to the art department as he frames a shot that is used for less than a second in the final cut. He yells, “Saltshaker on table 3 needs to move 2 inches camera-left, and raise that chair an inch,” before nodding and getting ready to roll camera. I’d call him pretentious if it didn’t work, but it does. It works so damn well.

House of Cards, the Machiavellian and diabolical political drama, is another one of Fincher’s masterpieces. Oh how you’ll squirm in delight when Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) looks you in the eye as he shows you around Washington D.C. and describes in detail just how he’s going to turn the system on its head. It’s exceptional, intelligent storytelling, and is directed to perfection. With two seasons already under the belt, and a third in production currently, there’s never been a better time to start watching. Of course, there was the debut where they released the entire season at once, but that’s in the past. Impress your friends with your knowledge of political terms: “What’s a House Majority Whip, you say? Let me paraphrase my good friend Kevin.” If that doesn’t ring your bell, and politics doesn’t get your fire started, you heathen, then perhaps you’ll enjoy Fincher’s coming adaptation of the novel Gone Girl, set to open the New York Film Festival in the coming months. It looks to be a fast-paced and eerie thriller, and in true Fincher fashion, I’m sure it will be deliciously good.

You owe it to yourself to spend a weekend alone in a dimly lit garage and watch through Fincher’s filmography, sending ambiguous texts to past friends and co-workers, and putting out candles with your fingertips. Delve into some of the most powerful, sinister and well-articulated film of late, and maybe take Keeping Up With The Kardashians off of series-link. Fincher’s job, as he so rightly puts, is “to know what the fuck he wants,” and I can assure you that if Fincher wants something, you should probably want it, too. For your sake and mine: Watch David Fincher.

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