Eric Shapiro delves deeper into the works of Director, David Fincher, and asks: “Can, or Should, he be stopped?”
What are we supposed to do with a guy like David Fincher?
Interestingly, if you study the documented behavior of major directors, the vast majority of whom (frustratingly) are male, you tend to regularly pick up a more-than-passing whiff of “conman.” Listen to Martin Scorsese speak, or Stanley Kubrick (which is harder to find). Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, Quentin Tarantino, David O. Russell. The generation or genre specialty doesn’t matter: These guys are manipulators. By profession and by their nature. They oftentimes boast hypnotic speech patterns. And mind you, I’m not questioning their ethics or integrity. I’m just saying to get the job done, one need advance in the art of swindling. After all, directors must get hundreds or thousands of people to conform to a solitary vision. They must converse with people all day long: different personalities, different intelligence levels, different enthusiasm levels. Judgment beams at them from every corner of the set, with almost everybody there thinking he or she can do it better. So the director, to maintain authority, must often become a virtuoso of hustling, able to keep the cast, crew, studio, and later audience spinning like plates above his (or her, but usually his) feverish head.
But then one looks at David Fincher.
He grew from different soil, this guy. I’m not saying he lacks the above-described traits, though I am saying if he possesses them, they’re not in plain sight. Which is fitting for Fincher, as it’s unsettling to envision a conman tucked away beneath his everyman, work-horse exterior.
According to Fincher, he rose in the ranks of Hollywood on account of his work ethic, which has been widely noted for being extraordinary. He’s known to shoot 25 to 50 takes of any given shot. Known for not being particularly warm on set. And his movies hum with a crisp, deeply air-conditioned aura of intelligence and dis-ease. You often feel, while watching the screen, that David Fincher doesn’t like you, entirely. But if you can get over that for a couple of hours, then his dislike for you — or at the very least, his smirking impatience with you — can become a sinister source of pleasure. For the attitude’s contagious: You go to a Fincher film to behold the embryonic imperfections of the human race. And to catch a lot of laughs and scares to boot.
But these aren’t hustler laughs, nor showman’s scares. These are the emotions generated by the guy who works harder than everyone else, whose energy is devoted not to unleashing joy or making your soul burst, but to being as exacting, as penetrating, as proficient and sound and deeply thought through as possible.
And he’s amazing, this Fincher.
He drums up workmanlike evenhandedness to an operatic extreme. It wasn’t always like this, of course. From Alien 3 to Se7en to The Game to Fight Club (especially) to Panic Room, Fincher was a visually hyper expressionist, wearing his music video roots on his sleeve with pride (if not outright arrogance). Fight Club is like Goodfellas 2.0 — a dose of nervous system electroshock that’s so aesthetically advanced that I spoke in my sleep in 1999 (according to my wife, then-girlfriend, Rhoda), asking with fury, “Where’s Fincher going?”
Now he was exploring humanity, as greater artists are known to do.
And regarding the film’s metaphorical aspect: It pertains to marriage. The story (unlike any other I can recall) looks directly at the element of marriage whereby the couple works together to engineer the appearance of the marriage, which of course is almost always at odds with the marriage’s internal machinations. In the age of social networking, where people peer into each other’s glossy online surfaces, working to tease out the cracks and blemishes, Gone Girl finds itself on hyper-relevant terrain. But it goes even further than a surface-vs.-substance exploration, contemplating the very parameters of a marriage — the invisible fences that keep us inside of them — and what might occur when people wander out the gate. Can they be brought back? Will they wander forever?
What were they even thinking before they went?
These questions resist answers, as does the one above about David Fincher. No, I’m not sure what to do with this guy. I just know that he’s serious. And he keeps on coming. And frankly, given the looks of Gone Girl, there isn’t any indication that he can be stopped.