Throwback Live Blog: Se7en

Wherein I live blog a movie from my past.  (I shouldn't have to say 'spoilers' but as a courtesy I will.  Spoilers.)

Tonight’s adventure in nostalgic movie watching is the wonderful 1995 film Se7en starring Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow and an uncredited Kevin Spacey.  Buckle up and ready your refresh button.

1:28 Morgan Freeman is the kind of under-appreciated lone wolf investigator these movies are made of.  He does world weary like nobody else.  Brad Pitt is all eagerness and aspiration.  And the weather is appropriately dreary. 

3:51 Freeman attempts to sleep to the soothing (?) sound of a metronome and then the distorted, disturbing, and utterly brilliant title sequence starts backed by Nine Inch Nails' 'Closer'.

9:52 The wall of spaghetti sauce cans.

10:28 Bound hands and feet.  Pan up to the plates of food crawling with insects.  The man face down in the noodles.  Is it wrong to admire something this grotesque?  There is a certain repulsive beauty to the precise staging.  It's like Hannibal.  The murders are so... cinematic.

13:51 Oh hell yes!  (Not the autopsy.)  The coroner is Mayor Carcetti’s assistant in The Wire and the purveyor of the finest ribs in DC in Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards.  Reg E. Cathey.  He’s wonderful! 

19:12 GREED.  .... What could it mean? 

22:46 Slivers from the floor were in the dead man's stomach.  And behind the fridge?  GLUTTONY.  I do have to take a moment to wonder how my beloved CSIs would feel about Freeman just ripping the paper off like that, just going ahead and destroying without photographing.

26:17 ‘Air On A G String’ Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D Major by Bach.  In the great arched space of the library as Freeman researches Dante.  There is a lot of beauty in this film.

The Seven Deadly Sins and their corresponding Seven Virtues according to the Catholic Church are as follows:
Lust           Chastity
Gluttony   Temperance
Greed       Charity
Sloth         Diligence
Wrath        Patience
Envy          Kindness
Pride         Humility
This film will not show us the virtues but we will become intimately familiar with the sins.  Thus far we have seen Gluttony as illustrated by an obese man seemingly force-fed until he died in his food and Greed in the form of a slaughtered lawyer.

37:00 This little bit of levity where the three laugh over the “soothing vibrating home” serves to bond Tracy (Paltrow) to Somerset (Freeman) and provides one of the only light spots in a film that otherwise spirals deeper into the rabbithole of depravity as it goes.  It’s skillful filmmaking to insert this here, so effortlessly.  We need this moment.

40:22 No witnesses.  The murderer exacted a “pound of flesh” from the lawyer in his demonstration of greed and yet there are no witnesses.

44:58 Dusting for prints!  This is CSI stuff.  Anything will remind me of CSI but obviously dusting for prints is a no-brainer.  Though ‘Help Me’ written on the wall in prints is a new one.

46:58 This scene, the two of them slumped on the couch in half-light, with Somerset talking about how they’re just picking up the pieces, this is the moment where the film lets us know that we are in for five more of these bloody dioramas.  Gird your loins, the film is saying.  It just gets darker.

52:10 Is that SWAT guy John C. McGinley from Scrubs?  Weird!

53:10 SLOTH

53:57 Ack!  Oh man, the waxen corpse-looking sloth victim is alive.  Unbelievable.

54:41 Kevin Spacey!  The photographer in the stairs.  His voice is unmistakeable.

59:09 Gwyneth breaks my heart in this.  Tracy is so sweetly vulnerable.  And so sad.

1:02:45  “He’s a lunatic!  Right now he’s probably dancing around in his grandma’s panties, rubbing himself in peanut butter.”  David (Pitt) has a real poetic streak, don’t you think?  “He’s a nutbag!  Just because the fucker’s got a library card doesn’t make him Yoda.”

1:07:00 This whole discussion on the FBI flagging library books and tracking public reading habits, forming watch lists, this is in a 1995 movie but if you switch ‘website’ or ‘email’ for ‘library book’ you have a relevant modern day concern.  One way or another Uncle Sam seems to be watching, using whatever technology is available at the time.

1:11:06  Kevin Spacey!  Top of the stairs.  I can’t help it.  Knowing he’s in this forces me to play Where’s Waldo with him throughout. 

1:16:32 Falsifying witnesses after secret information from a Bureau source led to an illegal search?  This is a masterclass in shady dealings right here.

1:20:58 No fingerprints in John Doe’s über-creepy apartment.  Remember the opening title sequence?  There were rapid-fire images of razors and fingertips.  It’s all there, in the titles.  I love a good title tease that you can’t recognize until the film is over.  Brilliant.

1:25:44  LUST.  Lust is horrendous... it is wildly disturbing... oh good lord...  a strap-on dildo-knife and the tragic dead girl and this traumatized john.  We are shown only just enough to inform our imaginations and that is by far worse than seeing the entire thing laid out in technicolor under an unflinching lens.  The best filmmakers suggest things to your mind and your mind fills in the blanks.  The best films let you do some of the work.  They guide, they don’t batter you with demands.  In dark films this takes you to distressing places.  But it is still a much more rewarding experience. 

1:33:22  PRIDE.  Sleeping pills glued to one hand, phone to the other, the beautiful girl with her nose cut off "to spite her face”.  Pride.  Call for help and live disfigured or kill yourself.  And now we’re at five deadly sins.  Two more to go.

1:34:52  “Detective.  Detective.  DETECTIIIIIIVE!  You’re looking for me.”  Kevin Spacey is the master. 

1:39:54 David falters.  He is talking about Tracy with more frequency.  This is his uncertainty surfacing and with it, ours.  We are afraid of the next two sins being revealed.  How much worse can it get?

1:41:45 I am drinking a faux-jito.  A non-alcoholic mojito.  This has nothing to do with anything in Se7en but I want to be forthright about this experience.  Sharing is caring.

1:45:12  John Doe: “It’s more comfortable for you to label me insane.”  David: “It’s very comfortable.”

1:47:10 The entire justification speech by John Doe about how non-innocent his victims are is a variation on a classic theme - killers who kill those who are guilty of crimes the law either doesn’t see or can’t touch.  However there are deeper questions to ask here.  What is innocence?  What is guilt?  Can any of us truly say we have never once committed a deadly sin?  Can any of us claim to be in possession of all seven virtues?  This asks us, subconsciously, to consider the differences between laws and sins.  The moral versus legal crimes we commit.  The denouement of this plot is vicious and exacting in its specific genius and the themes it demands that we ponder.

1:52:20 Somerset: “Dead dog.”  John Doe: “I didn’t do that.”

1:56:02 Somerset pondering the box, deciding whether to open it or not, is tension to the extreme.  Intercut with John Doe telling David how he envies him.  

1:56:44 The reaction.  Somerset’s face.  And we are dying to know what is in the box but we suspect now, we have a sinking horrible feeling.  John Doe: “I’m trying to tell you how much I admire you.  And your pretty wife.  Tracy.”

1:58:12 “... her pretty head.”  Tracy’s head is in the box.  And David’s anguished pleas of “What’s in the box” make this wrenching.  And then the revelation of the pregnancy.  ENVY is John Doe’s sin.  And WRATH...

2:00:15 ... wrath is now David’s sin.  He shoots John Doe.  The entire bloody panorama of John Doe’s 'Divine Comedy' is complete.  

2:01:45  “Ernest Hemingway once wrote ‘The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.’  I agree with the second part.” Perfect closing line.  And then the fragmented credits rolling over David Bowie’s ‘The Heart’s Filthy Lesson’. 

My roommate tells me a fun fact about this film.  The producer didn't want to do the head in the box ending, they wanted an action piece to close on.  But Brad Pitt and David Fincher refused to do the film without the head in the box ending.  And while Se7en would doubtless have been a good film without the highly traumatic ending, it would have been more generic.  It would have been forgotten faster.  And the contemplation on evil, the complete picture and statement being made, the necessity of having David become wrath to John Doe's envy... it is exactly the film it is meant to be. 

Thank you for joining me!