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David Fincher's Cinematic Style

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Anya Tye

on 16 October 2013

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Transcript of David Fincher's Cinematic Style

David Fincher's Cinematic Style and critical reception to Fight Club
Cinematic Style
An Interview with David Fincher
Inspired by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Fincher began making movies at age eight with an 8 mm camera. Fincher eschewed the film school route, getting a job loading cameras and doing other hands-on work for John Korty’s Korty Films. He was later hired by Industrial Light & Magic in 1983, where he worked on productions for Twice Upon a Time, Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. In 1984, he left ILM to direct a commercial for the American Cancer Society, that would show a fetus smoking a cigarette. This quickly brought Fincher to the attention of producers in Los Angeles and he was given the chance to direct the documentary The Beat of the Live Drum featuring Rick Springfield in 1985. Though he would continue to direct spots for companies like Revlon, Converse, Nike, Pepsi, Sony, andLevi's, Fincher soon discovered music videos and went on to direct many promos.
Directing Style

Fincher is well known for taking multiple takes of each scene. For example, during the opening sequence in The Social Network, Fincher took 99 takes of the scene.
Actors largely enjoy the process, which they credit with allowing them to move creatively in their characters and reach new points of realization. He often shoots these takes with multiple cameras in different angles, covering a variety of points in the room. This allows him and his editing scene to have a wide selection of shot choices, which they use to assemble the scenes.
David Fincher goes Digital ...
Fincher is one of the biggest proponents of the digital film movement. Having shot every film since Zodiac digitally (Zodiac and Benjamin Button on a Viper, The Social Network on RED), his films have received critically accolades for their cinematography (done mostly by Jeff Cronenweth).
This technique allows Fincher to shoot in low-light scenarios, and increase the number of takes for each scene. Fincher is known for pushing digital effects in his films.
He started this with his first feature, Alien3, and caused much commotion with the studio. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button also used digital effects extensively in order to put Brad Pitts face on the body of a young child (who was an old man). For the first act of the film, the lead character is almost entirely digitally composited.
David Fincher incorporates darkness, psychological themes and violence into his films. They include violence to communicate themes, not simply for shock value. His use of this is seen as innovative as it is used as an element that transforms characters on a psychological level. Darkness is his staple style, bringing attention to characters' nature as well as creating an appropriate mood. Through the darkness of man, Fincher shows that the dark side of human nature can force a personal transformation. In Fight Club, violence becomes a cathartic act of self-realization. Violence gives Jack opportunity to come to terms with his alternate personality.
As a director you have a dark, grim visual style that’s distinctively yours. Who were your influences going up?
Hitchcock, you know. I was a big Alfred Hitchcock fan. But mostly… well, there were so many. [Martin] Scorsese, George Roy Hill, Alan J. Pakula.

There seems to be a lot of Hitchcock pans and tracking shots and styling that seems influenced in your movie?
Did you study the old master’s films? No, I’ve seen…. I mean, I’ve probably seen Rear Window sixty times. I know his movies inside and out. And Vertigo.

How old were you when you wanted to be a director?
I was about eight-years old when I wanted to be a director. Absolutely.

Fincher's Style of Narrative
Fincher seems to have a very dark style when it comes to the visual aspect of his films, therefore this seems to comes across in the way he narrative of his films too. Fincher seems to be a director that often focuses on creating an ambitious narrative structure and although 'Fight Club' was an existing story by Chuck Palahniuk, Fincher makes it clear that he understands the intentions of the author
' 'Fight Club' constantly exhibits the battle for the narrative voice, even if it is not apparent until after the narrator's revelation that he and Tyler are actually the same person'.
The structure of the narrative in the film helps to emphasise the fact that the identity of the narrator is not normal and has a split personality. However it only becomes clear to us that that's what is going on at the end of the story, meaning that the structure has worked well.
Style Development
Alien 3 (1992)

Seven (1995)

The Game (1997)
Alien 3
The Game
Fincher's style was evident even this early on, Alien 3 being his big-budget debut after only music videos and commercials. After the first two films of the trilogy Fincher took his own take, changing the alien itself and the visual style of the film. However, executives often overruled Fincher's creative decisions and the film was reworked altogether without his consent. Though Alien 3 helped Fincher develop his style and exercise his creative license, he has since disowned the film. Critics believe that Alien 3 was a stumbling block in his career possibly due to him not being able to let his creativity flow.
A neo-noir psychological film following detectives deeply involved in the case of a sadistic serial killer.
The genre and narrative are very different to Alien 3, and thus Fincher's style. His creative mind could flow through the film as he controlled it and there weren't expectations to be made, whereas Alien expected an Alien sort of film, not the dark style David Fincher uses in his films. Also, the use of the actor Brad Pitt expressed that he wanted a bold actor to play his main roles in films. We also see Brad Pitt in Fight Club and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The dark side of Fincher was expressed through Se7en.
His usual dark style shines through in The Game and Fincher introduces plot twists and complicated narratives to engage the audience deeper into his films. This is matched by the visual style of his films and the grandiose plots.

The Game was not originally Fincher's own creation; it began as a screenplay written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris in 1991, it was passed through various production companies until producer Steve Golin bought the script and sold it to Fincher, who changed various elements of the story and characters, and eventually the film became one of his style, it was through this experimentation that he created the style of Fight Club.
Critical Reception to Fight Club
Micro Analysis
Fight club was originally a book written by Chuck Palahniuk in 1996. The author released the book because

…Bookstores were full of books like The Joy Luck Club and The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and How to Make an American Quilt. These were all novels that presented a social model for women to be together. But there was no novel that presented a new social model for men to share their lives.
On screening senior executives did not receive the film positively and were concerned that there would not be an audience for the film. Executive producer Art Linson, who supported the film, recalled the response:

"So many incidences of Fight Club were alarming, no group of executives could narrow them down."

Marketing executives at 20th Century Fox faced difficulties in marketing Fight Club and at one point considered marketing it as an art film. They considered that the film was primarily geared toward male audiences because of its violence and believed that not even Brad Pitt would attract female film-goers
http://film.theguardian.com/News_Story/Critic_Review/Guardian_review/0,4267,102483,00.html - bad review (1999)
http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/reviews/fight-club-19991015 - good review (1999)
Fight Club as a Cult Film
A cult film has cult following, and a film will be said to have a cult following when it has a small but very passionate fan base. eg.- Fight Club, Memento, Rounders etc. These movies were not commercial success, but their fan base is very passionate about them. Though it is not necessary for a cult movie to receive critical and commercial acclaim, sometimes a cult movie achieves it eg. - Pulp Fiction. These movies not only have a cult following they also had commercial and critical success. This when a cult movie becomes a cult classic. Since it's original criticism, Fight Club has gained a larger following and has become mainstream cinema (a 'cult classic')
Micro Analysis - Anya Tye
- Starbucks cup on the photocopier - the light goes off, cuts to shot of narrator - symbolic of there being no "light" in his life? - Whilst photocopying says "with insomnia, nothing's real, everything's a copy of a copy" - shows how little importance he sees in his job

- His appearance is unhealthy, sleepless, facial expression matching his opinion
- White collar job costume - shown to be "the everyman"
- Office setting - boring, clinical lighting - mis-en-scene; no personality - a flash of Tyler - foreshadowing, Tyler is everywhere

- Spiraling shot from out of the rubbish bin - whilst narrator is talking of corporations - "Microsoft galaxy, planet Starbucks" - similar to opening sequence, set in the nerve center of the brain - represents those who now just have a mind full of advertising and consumerism. Contrasting to the "takeover" of such products, the shot being in a bin shows that in the end it's all thrown away anyway

- Shows narrator in his apartment, “I had become a slave to the Ikea nesting instinct”, shows that he is no different. Display of “Furni” set out in his apartment as it would be in a catalogue, showing that everything comes pre-designed and set out – he doesn’t decide what goes where. This is shown to take over his life – “what kind of dining set defines me as a person?” – this consumerism is what he is. The quote “we used to read pornography, now it was the Horchow collection” shows the decline in “masculinity” in correlation with the uprising of branding

- The lighting at the doctor's is yellowy, ironically making the narrator look even more unhealthy, highlights the doctor refusing to help him
'A newspaper reported, "Many loved and hated it in equal measures." Some critics expressed concern that the film would incite copycat behavior, such as that seen after 'A Clockwork Orange' debuted in Britain nearly three decades previously.'

Fincher's Style of Narrative (continued).

An article talking about 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo': "Once more displaying his mastery of the thriller form, and his flare at delivering surprise endings", suggesting that Fincher's style of telling a story has become known to audiences, but in TGWTDT: "This is the most ambitious narrative structure he has attempted, as for nearly half the run time, Fincher and his screenwriter Steve Zaillian maintain two parallel stories". "Cross-cutting between these stories adds magnificent tension to the first half".
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