Essay: David Fincher’s work

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  • Subject area(s): Media essays
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  • Published on: November 15, 2017
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“There seems much not to like about modern America – at least in Fincher’s view.” (Namschaud).

As an auteur, David Fincher’s work is instantly recognisable. Fincher’s films are distinctly dark, claustrophobic, innovative, and thought-provoking – with an aftertaste that lingers, or even scars – like a chemical burn. By creating films that are distinctly unsettling Fincher is able to criticise an aspect of society he finds particularly troublesome – usually centred around modern occidental culture’s capitalist and consumerist traits. Moreover, since Fincher films are so memorable and powerful, ideas in films – such as Fight Club (1999) and Gone Girl (2014) resonate with viewers for some time.

Fincher’s distaste with not only the ideals of the ‘American Dream’ but also modern, capitalist societies’ consumerist mindset is evident in the ‘IKEA Nesting Instinct’ scene, during the exposition of Fight Club (1999). The lighting of [Edward Norton]’s apartment exposes its nature. Fincher – by combining a pale green filter with stark, fluorescent lighting – creates a unsettling and sickly atmosphere in the scene. The use of a green filter would create a sickly tinge unaccompanied, but when used in unison with the stark, halogen-bulb lighting, the scene evokes a more powerful reaction from the audience – feelings of sickness and distaste are amplified.  “Fincher’s interior spaces often convey a strong sense of a claustrophobic starkness – lit by fluorescent lights and manipulated through filters to create a bleak or sickly feel; as in the hospital room in Benjamin Button, or the Newspaper Office in Zodiac.” (Namschaud) – a statement, which, in the case of the ‘IKEA Nesting Instinct’ scene certainly rings true. The sickly atmosphere Fincher creates displays his clear distaste not only with [Edward Norton]’s cramped inner-city apartment lifestyle (and how it betrays ideals of the ‘American Dream’), but moreover, with its inhabitants – trendy furniture, a purchased identity, being used to fill a void in [Edward Norton]’s – the ‘everyman’s’ – empty life.

Fincher’s apparent distaste with the ideals of the ‘American Dream’ once again rears its head in Gone Girl (2014). Early in the film, when Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), comes home to find Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) – his wife – is missing. Once again, Fincher uses lighting, filters, and cinematography to create an intensely unsettling atmosphere. Nick Dunne’s home is dimly lit, which, immediately unsettles an audience – combining the dim lighting with a green filter emphasises insidious connotations within the home. As stated previously, use of a green filter is typical of Fincher – often used to show his distaste with a setting. In this instance, Fincher’s displeasure lies within Nick’s home – it “can be perceived as a symbol of The American Dream – the grand stately home” (Namschaud). Through the scene Fincher builds a powerful sense of claustrophobia and anxiety through concealing, or darkening, exits to rooms. This begins to convey to the audience Nick Dunne’s inability to escape his wife’s ensuing plot, “the grand house is a seething bed of claustrophobic dissatisfaction and loathing, and one in which the protagonist is ultimately condemned to stay” (Namschaud). Furthermore, by showing the grand house through such a critical light, Fincher is able to criticise an aspect of society; commenting on how modern day, occidental culture glorifies owning a grand home – claiming that wealth will bring happiness and purpose to one’s life, evidently not in Nick Dunne’s case.

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