Intro:David Fincher’s 1995 classic thriller ‘Se7en’ is about a veteranDetective, William Somerset portrayed by Morgan Freeman. He tackles his finalcase with the company of a young detective, David Mills, played by Brad Pitt. Together they play cat and mouse with a Serial Killer, JohnDoe, revealed to be Kevin Spacey latter in the film.
His name wasdeliberately removed in the opening credits for the audience to be surprised onwho the serial killer’s identity was. In this anonymous city, the detectives discover a number ofelaborate and grisly murders with each one representing the seven deadly sins. First scene: The chaseAfter the discovery of the Sloth victim, Somerset uses hisintel with a FBI contact to get some potential information who checked out ‘flagged’library books relating to the seven deadly sins. They get a lead on a man named John Doe, but when theyvisit his apartment, a man’s silhouette approaches and shoots a gun at thedetectives. Throughout the film,the setting is often obscured by rain, this makes the location emphasise thecharacters conflicted emotions and create an atmosphere of hopelessness. Therain can also serve to confuse the audience, which heightens the suspense anddrama of the sequence particularly in this chase scene. After a long chase, DetectiveMills gets hit in the face, drops his gun, Doe picks up, presses the gun atMills temple, while the rain dripping threateningly off it. There is a tensionof whether he’s going to shoot Mills, the depth of field is focused on the gunand the silhouette of man is only seen.
The rain was effectively used to createreflections, a stylistic element used in some films in which the character ofJohn Doe is distorted, giving an ominous and menacing presence, making the audienceunsure and wary of who they are seeing. Second Scene: John Does’apartment or ‘Sloth Murder’The scene where the detectives find the third victim ‘Sloth’.Cinematographer Darius Khondji used a technique by applying a silver-retentionprocess to the film negatives and combining it with chiaroscuro lighting whichresulted “a dark, moody and bleak mise-en-scene” making the contrast of lightand dark. This obscures the audiences’ vision but also supports them to see thehorrifying world in which Se7en exists. Khondji also used many handheld and overthe shoulder shots which makes it feel more similar to the way that we navigateour world and when executed at the highest-level like in Se7en it makes thedistance closer between the film and its audience.
It implies a subjectivenarrator in the same way that writing fiction in the first person does. Third scene: car scene The only timeit stopped raining was when John Doe surrendered himself and took them for atrip in a bright lit hell like desert. The techniqueof chiaroscuro is frequently used in conjunction with difficulties such as barsor rails that assists to frame the morality of the characters and foreshadowtheir fates. In this scene, a barrier conceals John doe capturing him tocommunicate to the audience that he is the ‘bad guy’. In contrast with DetectiveSomerset he is presented of all confining devices which tells the audience thathe is the ‘good guy’.
On the other hand, it becomes interesting when the camerashots showing that Detective Mills is both at times obstructed behind bars andsometimes not, which can be questioned that is Detective Mills a bad guy? Theimagery of the bars when showing Mills can connote the ‘grey area’ of hismorality also foreshadowing his fate where we find out in the final scenes ofthe film. The close-up shots of their faces help convey emotion and alsodirects the narrative and emphasise the point in the scene. Final scene: The boxWe open upthe scene with a close up shot of Detective Somerset who just approached acourier van who had a delivery package for Detective Mills. From his agitatedmoves and his worried face, he demonstrates curiosity that he, as well as the audiencepossess which is the desire to open the box.
The diegetic sounds of the birdssinging in the background juxtaposes the situation as it portrays that there isevidence of tension and anticipation, which in contrast to the melodioussinging of the birds. The diegetic sound of the wind also conveys the isolationof their location which provides the audience a sense of foreboding and alsocreating tension due to the minimal sounds like the knife opening the box. The scenes locationis in a desert area connotes isolation as its away from society. We get a closeup shot of the box which demonstrates the it is the focal point within thiswhole scene. While Detective Somerset is engaged with the box, Detective Millsis guarding John Doe, who is kneeling connoting his superiority and authorityhe currently possesses over John Doe. The use of depth of field between JohnDoe and Detective Mills presents Detective Mills as the focal point of theshot, he is also attempting to block out the John Doe’s communication. Fromdoing this the camera is used to retain the enigma surrounding John Doe’sidentity and character as his face is not shown to the audience just like atthe end of the chase scene. There is ahint of blood when Detective Somerset opens the box, but the director chose tonot show the content as it may indicate that whatever was inside the box is reallygrotesque and horrific just from Somerset’s reaction, this makes the audiencemore eager to know what’s in the box.
There is a shot reverse shot between thebox and Somerset revealing his instant reaction to the content of the box, withtaking three seconds of the camera zooming into his face and to the box, thereis a suspense stimulated. We return toDoe, his head haloed by the sun as if he has achieved his divine mission thatGod set him up to. The cameracuts away to police man in a helicopter, from here the pace and extremity ofthe scene begins to increase, the shaky movement of the camera illuminates theseverity of the situation while hearing the obvious diegetic sound of thehelicopter flying. The impulsive non-diegetic soundtrack creates a tenseatmosphere of uneasiness as the camera cuts from panning into a close up shotof Detective Somerset’s concerned face to a wide shot of Mills and Doe, thisalso indicate the separation between them and it implies that the box has aconnection with them. Furthermore, the sequences of cross-cutting is effective inmaking the audience question what is happening in the scene, “what is insidethe box?” The low angleshot of John Doe looking up signifies the authority and dominance he has withinthe scene as he is familiar of what is the content of the box, unlike with DetectiveMills who is perceived as confused and provoked. The consistent shot-reverse-shotof John Doe attempting to get Mills attention to stop him from listening toSomerset demonstrates the tenacious nature of John Doe within him against Mills.John Doe then converses with Mills about how much he ‘admires’ his life and his’pretty little wife’. From this point of the scene we as the audience can feelthe heavy tension going on within the scene.
The monotone voice of John Doesuggests that he does not care about anything and is willing to make Mills loseeverything. We as the audience can hear the diegetic shouting of Somerset inthe background. The hand-held shots were effectively used in a wide shot ofSomerset rushing in towards Mills and John Doe creating anticipation as thecamera makes the audience experience the chaotic action happening in the scene.