Seven, or Se7en if you’re into that whole smart-ass logo thing, is one of those movies that I find endlessly watchable. I love it. It never dulls, never seems worn with repeated viewings, its themes and visuals always sit comfortably in my mind and my eyes. Some people have mood music, I have mood movies and there are definitely times when Seven is the movie for my mood.
David Fincher managed to rise from the ashes of his much-maligned debut, Alien3, with this audacious, poetic take on the serial killer movie. He has since become one of America’s most original and inventive filmmakers. Much imitated but never bettered, Seven is the perfect example of suggestive horror. Of all the murders (or forced suicides) that take place in the movie, we actually witness only one being perpetrated. Of the others, we just see glimpses of the aftermath and our imaginations do the rest. Centred by outstanding performances from both Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, Seven is dark, contemplative and merciless at its resolution.
In a gloomy, unnamed city, new recruit Detective Mills (Pitt) and seasoned veteran Detective Lt. Somerset (Freeman) are investigating a series of murders which appear to be have been based upon the seven deadly sins. With victims mounting and very little to go on, the two men pursue the investigation in their own particular way…
Why I Love It
It would have been easy to pick some of the more recognisable scenes from Seven; one of the crime scenes, perhaps, or that infamous final scene with the box. But in the middle of all the darkness, horror and endless rain of Fincher’s movie sits this thoughtful and rather beautiful little moment of calm. It is almost an intermission, and I love that.
Air on a G String is one of my favourite pieces of classical music, and Bach’s melancholy masterpiece suits the languid, pensive tone of this scene perfectly. The fact that it seems far more out of place in the moments involving Pitt’s Detective Mills than it does with Freeman’s Detective Lt. Somerset speaks volumes for who they are.
I’m not entirely sure where this scene was filmed, but I wish there were a library like that where I live. It’s gorgeous! Almost all of Seven is set in run-down, beat-up looking buildings and offices, rain soaked and maudlin. The library, in contrast, is like some grand museum, with high ceilings and stone floors. From his familiarity with the Night Watchmen, you just know that Somerset comes here often, perhaps for refuge from the hellhole he lives in. And who can blame him?
Highlighting the Differences
Seven is very much a character study of two contrasting police officers; the young, idealistic Mills and the older, wizened Somerset. This scene gives us a brief but telling comparison of men and methods. While Mills sits, beer in hand, endlessly studying the crime scene pictures, Somerset hits the library. Mills exists in the moment, for him all the answers are there in the event itself. Somerset likes to look deeper, to the past and to the things that may have influenced the event. Mills’ crime scene photos depict the recent crimes, that might seem original in their detail and savagery. Somerset’s reading choices are a poetic reminder that man’s cruelty to man is nothing new.
.Seven may not be the most cheerful and uplifting of movies. It is harrowing, pessimistic and offers little in the way of hope when the end credits roll. But there are few films quite like it. It possesses an element of dark beauty, which is never more evident than in this scene.