What’s in the box?
If those four words call to mind the 1995 serial killer thriller, Seven.
You know the answer and the chill just shivers down your spine.
This gory climax was one of the most memorable endings of all time,
and made David Fincher’s connect-the-dots police procedural an instant classic.
However, like most instances of Hollywood perfection,
it was as much the result of happy accidents and artistic infighting
as brilliant direction and inspired performances.
So snapped on some plastic gloves,
because Art of the Scene is going to do some blood splattered forensics
on the box climax from Seven.
“- 放下你的抢- 我看到你拿着盒子了 那里面装着什么?
“- put your gun down- I saw you with the box. What was in the box?”
“- 因为我嫉妒你平凡的生活- 放下你的枪 大卫
“- Because I envy your normal life. – Put your gun down, David
“- 看来嫉妒是我的罪- 不！盒子里面是什么？”
“- It seems that Envy is my sin. – no! what’s in the box?”
David Fincher’s road to directing Seven was a long and disturbed one.
His first big break was working for the Industrial Light and Magic
as an assistant cameraman and a matte photographer,
working on both Return of the Jedi and Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom.
然而 如果他1984年没有拍那支美国癌症协会的广告片 没有展现他表现扭曲的天赋
However, he likely would have languished below the line, had he not shown his flair
for the truly warped with this 1984 American Cancer Society commercial?
“Would you get a cigarette?
“You’re an unborn child.
“Everytime you smoke for your pregnant.”
It’s no surprise that Fincher would become a frequent collaborator
with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails Fame later in life.
But before those two soul mates found each other,
Fincher directed numerous music videos for Madonna
and top 80’s brands like Levi’s, Coca-Cola and Nike.
He did these all as a member of the commercial production company Propaganda Films,
whose roster reads a bit like a hit list of future directors,
如迈克尔·贝 米歇尔·冈瑞 斯派克·琼斯 扎克·施耐德 戈尔·维宾斯基
Michael Bay, Michel Gondry, Spike Jones, Zack Snyder and Gore Verbinski.
“We went from billing together about two and a half million dollars a year.
And three years later, we were billing 65-75 million dollars a year,
and we had the biggest music video commercial company in Hollywood.”
After cutting his teeth in the world of commercials, Fincher dove headfirst into features,
taking the reins of the Alien franchise for Alien 3.
But he found the process of haggling over the budget with 20th Century Fox so maddening,
and the critical and audience response so dismal
that Fincher swore off Hollywood with the line.
I dumped it. I’d rather die of colon cancer than do another movie.
Meanwhile, screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker had finished the script for Seven
while working at a Tower Records in NYC.
After David kept sharing this script with executives at New Line Cinema.
It was time to begin Walker’s career long history of Studios
attempting to tone down his warped storytelling.
A quick plot refreshed on seven which is chockful of spoilers.
Young detective Mills and veteran detective Somerset played a game of cat and mouse
with an anonymous John Doe, a serial killer.
This John Doe ruthlessly punished his victims for transgressing against the Bible seven deadly sins,
killing them with unique but grisly symbolism.
A gluttonous force fed into a stomach exploded.
A lawyer’s blood leaded to punish him for his greed.
A drug dealer and child molester has been chained to a bed for a year to represent sloth.
A prostitute was raped to death by a man wearing a bladed S&M phallus to punish them for her lust.
A model killed herself after John Doe disfigured her face succumbing to her pride.
It seems Doe will never be apprehended.
But then against all logic, he turned himself in soaked in the blood of his last murder.
He says he will lead the detectives to his final two victims.
So Mills, Somerset and Doe headed out to the desert in their police-issue sedan,
where a delivery man dropped off a package containing the severed head of Mills’ wife Tracy.
Doe explained he envied Mills’ perfect life and thus envy was his sin.
他刺激米尔斯 让他在盛怒下杀了他 这样七宗罪就完成了
He entreats Mills to become wrath to shoot him in anger and thus complete his cycle.
After it’s revealed that Mills’ wife was pregnant, Mills pulled the trigger.
Boom! Seven deadly sins.
So you can see why a studio executive might freak out a little.
New line of producer, Arnold Kopleson pushed for revisions to soften the ending.
Here’s a sample of their suggestions.
Number one, maybe let the veteran Somerset say I want out
and then kill Doe so that Mills doesn’t destroy his own life.
Uh number two,
maybe have Mills and Somerset catched Doe before the final scene
and then the climax becomes a race to save Tracy’s life.
第三 呃 可能是多伊杀了米尔斯
Number three, uh maybe have Doe killed Mills,
and then Somerset killed Doe.
或者第四 等等 哈！我明白了！
Or number four, wait whoa! I got it!
Have it been Mills’ dog’s head in the box instead of the wife’s.
Boom! Up top, high five. Let’s do this cloud of cocaine.
Thankfully, when the script went out to Fincher,
New Line mistakenly sent the original draft instead of one with revisions.
Fincher signed on, drawn to the story
by its psychological violence that delivered about inhumanity.
Still the studio wanted to change the ending, despite having a director who loved it.
It wasn’t until Brad Pitt said he would walk if the ending changed, the Gwyneth’s head got to stay.
Speaking of Pitt, he was never supposed to be in the movie in the first place,
摩根·弗里曼也是 凯文·史派西 格温妮丝·帕特罗都是
nor was Morgan Freeman, also not Kevin Spacey or Gwyneth Paltrow,
nor was Fincher supposed to direct.
This was a movie of second-round draft picks at the time anyway.
Both Denzel Washington and Sylvester Stallone were offered Brad Pitt’s role, but turned it down.
Al Pacino was considered for Somerset,
but he chose to do The Forgettable City Hall instead.
Val Kilmer was offered the role of John Doe, but declined.
Christina Applegate turned down the role of Tracy and Guillermo del Toro turned down directing the picture,
because he felt the world was too dark.
对啊 拍这种片子的导演 认为《七宗罪》太黑暗
Yes, the man who directed this, thought Seven was too dark.
With the cast-in-place Fincher teamed up with Darius khondji, an Iranian French cinematographer,
who would showcase his ability to capture creepy with the early 90s French films,
Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children.
For the shoot, Khondji drew inspiration from the handheld over-the-shoulder aesthetic of the TV show cops,
also they elected to shoot in Super 35.
This allowed them to lend an extremely low light,
which they set up by using only 25 watt bulbs in many of the scenes.
Additionally they treated the film with a process called CCE,
that rebonds the silver lustre conventional film processing.
This enhanced the darks which led to higher contrast and more menacing shadows.
For storyboarding Fincher turned to Jacques Rey,
who had just finished work on a different spooky movie.
“Can I keep you?”
According to Fincher, the early storyboards were all wrong,
because they contained too much Sturm Und Drang.
A reference to an 18th century German artistic movement,
which was really just a pretentious way of saying crazy camera angles.
However, the movies exclamation point is in fact a textbook example of this artistic philosophy.
But hold that thought.
As with the very best thrillers, Seven is a masterclass in set-up and payoff.
From the opening title sequence that IFC ranks the 3rd best all-time
to Mills squeezing the trigger,
Fincher made sure every single detail ratcheted up the audiences on ease.
Most importantly, not revealing the identity of the killer
by keeping Kevin Spacey off of press materials and out of the opening credits.
“You’re looking for me.”
Once Spacey’s identity is revealed, he and his character dominate the film’s last half hour.
As he rides in the backseat of the detectives’ car, seemingly in a position of shackled weakness,
he delivered a grand monologue explaining the rationale for the killings.
“We see a deadly sin on every street corner
“in every home
“and we tolerate it.
“我们忍 因为这很寻常 这不重要的”
“We tolerate it, because it’s common, It’s trivial”
Roger Ebert described Spacey’s masterful performance thusly.
Observed his face smug, self-satisfied,
listened to his voice intelligent, analytical,
marked his composure and apparent fearlessness.
This film essentially depends on him and would go astray if the actor faltered.
He does not. This scene lit the fuse for the explosive ending.
“People will barely be able to comprehend,
“but they won’t be able to deny. “
Now let’s break the climax down to the minutiae.
Somerset drives a car towards John Doe’s location.
They pass beneath high tension power lines.
The menacing structures of which are a sea of interlaced black sevens,
pinning in Mills and Somerset rolling toward their unavoidable fate.
Their eyes in the sky see there’s no ambush out here.
No nothing and the helicopter has to pull away, because of the powerlines.
两个镜头后 我们看到一个生锈的拖车 一个完美的埋伏点
And then we see a rusted out trailer two shots later, a perfect ambush spot.
但最终事实证明那只不过是自己吓自己 因为这次的埋伏并非实际埋伏 而是心理埋伏
However it’s ultimately a red herring as the ambush coming psychological not physical.
This is followed by further establishing shots of rusting decay and a dead dog.
“I didn’t do that. “
The climax was the only scene shot without rain.
It poured on Brad Pitt’s first day of shooting.
So Fincher used rain machines for the rest of the shoot to make it easier
to maintain continuity on a compressed schedule.
These desolate desert establishing shots
help bridge the bleak tone of the film into the climax despite the lack of precipitation.
As the delivery van arrives on the horizon, we return to the helicopter POV footage,
and the original cut of the scene, there were no helicopters,
as shooting them would put the film over-budget.
Luckily, after early test screenings came back positive.
Fincher was given extra money to go film’s choppers.
Unfortunately, his cinematographer Darius Kanji had already moved on to a different film,
Bernardo Bertolucci’s Stealing Beauty.
So Fincher turned to his camera operator,
Jeff Cronenweth, son of Legendary Blade Runner cinematographer, Jordan Cronenweth
to handle this additional filming.
They must have really enjoyed working with each other as they went on to collaborate on Fight Club,
oh and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,
oh and the Social Network,
oh also Gone girl.
So pretty much they hold hands all the time.
So when Somerset races to intercept the van,
the editing kicks into high gear each edit punctuated
by the crescendoing horns of Howard Schwartz’s score.
“From the North”
The rapid pace only slows upon John Doe’s first gotcha.
The package is addressed to detective Mills.
The police in the chopper call for a bomb squad.
The music drops out to draw the audience in the Somersets’ struggle
to decide to go ahead and open it himself.
“I’m gonna open it “
Mills steps into the foreground reducing John Doe to nothing
but a blurry silhouette out of the depth of field.
This is the last time Mills will ever ignore him.
Somerset opens the box to discover Tracy’s severed head.
Fincher shot Freeman’s reaction several times,
but they ended up using the first take as Morgan’s gut acting instincts turned out to be best.
After Somerset yells out that John Doe has the upper hand.
We return to Spacey, his head haloed by the sun,
as if he is on his way to achieving his religious zealots purpose.
It’s here that Spacey begins to spike a word or phrase in every sentence,
老婆 特蕾西 不安 在你离开后 丈夫 品味 纪念品
its wife Tracy, disturbing, after you left, husband, taste, souvenir.
It’s almost as if he’s telling the story by scissoring up newspaper clippings
and pasting them together into a collage as serial killers or want to do.
“I visited your home this morning
“after you left”
As the bombshell drops, Fincher cuts on the motion of John Doe,
转向米尔斯 从中景拉到特写 让紧绷的气氛冲上顶点
turning to Mills from a medium to a close-up maximizing its impact.
“her pretty head “
As Somerset arrives out of breath, the camera pushes in on his arrival
establishing the remainder of the scene
as an intimate life-or-death drama between only the three men.
There will be no more POV helicopter shots until the deed is done.
“- 你扔掉枪 他知道- 不！”
“- You just throw it all away and he knows it.- No”
Detective Mills accuses John Doe of lying and presses the gun to his head in anger.
Fincher mentioned that he can tell in the footage from Spacey’s half grin,
推出一 皮特让他感到很惊讶 因为这个动作是他临场发挥的
that A It caught him by surprise as Pitt improvised the action in the hit of the moment,
and B he didn’t want to have his head getting shoved to be repeated over and over again
from different angles to maintain continuity.
The handheld camera motion becomes shakier as Mills life unravels
with the revelation of his wife’s execution.
But again Fincher pushes to close-up,
so we can see the impact of John Doe’s final reveal register on Mills.
His wife is pregnant.
It’s worth noting that Brad Pitt was dating Gwyneth Paltrow at the time,
making it all the easier for him to access the emotions necessary
to deliver a believable performance.
Now we alternate between three tight shots of the men maximum intensity.
Mills fights the urge to give in to wrath and complete John Doe’s cycle of seven deadly sins.
It seems that within that triangle of conflict he can win this internal battle,
but at great cost, as the camera tracks him staying tight on his anguish.
But then the triangle is broken.
A quick flash of his wife pushes Mills over the edge.
Mills pulls the trigger, we snap to the helicopter signifying that this killing will resonate
beyond the three of them out into the broader world,
and so finally we arrive at the Sturm Und Drang shot of Pitt unloading its clip into John Doe,
and by nature of the angle us, the viewer.
As if Fincher declared that we, the audience are equally deserving of Wrath.
Fincher frames Mills and Somerset in a two-shot their backs facing each other,
both men looking off screen in opposite directions.
The relationship is permanently severed by this act of revenge.
Fincher finishes with the helicopters POV tracking Mills,
as he seemingly walks into the desert of his own lost humanity.
This was intended to be the final scene.
But test audiences responded negatively, likely because they Rochelle shocked his detective Mills.
At the studio’s behest,
Fincher but grudgingly tacked on a voice-over coda of Somerset quoting Hemingway:
“Ernest Hemingway once wrote:
“The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.
“I agree with the second part.”
Certainly a lame move by newline,
but considering that Seven easily could have ended with Al Pacino,
discovering sly Stallone’s dog’s head in a box,
as Val Kilmer looked on.
Well, let this one slide.
Hey guys we hope you enjoyed the art of the scene on Seven.
Uh… this is one of my favorite movies.
So I was really glad we got to focus on it for a little bit.
Let us know in the comments below what you’d like us to take a look at next.
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What’s in the box,
lots of good stuff!