Wednesday, September 05, 2007
David Fincher’s latest film is based on a true story of a serial killer. This true story offers Fincher a chance to do a film similar to the Seven, the film that made him famous. Zodiac, however, even if it is a fairly good film, never manages to become the masterpiece that Seven was.
Basing a film on a true story has its own advantages and disadvantages as it is painfully obvious in Zodiac. From on hand a true story on a serial murder always manages to intrigue the spectator and coach him into seeing the film. On the other hand if one is basing his script on a real story one is rather restricted by it. Sometimes reality can be less “tidy” than fiction. Unfortunately Zodiacs script, bonded to reality, doesn’t manage to create a peak that would heighten the spectator’s interest. Moreover there is no real ending. The main character that investigates the killings out of his own accord never manages to capture the killer. Instead he writes a book giving the evidence that point to a man without proving beyond doubt that he is the murder. The script has no turns and no real surprises. The man that seems to be guilty from almost the middle of the film is actually the killer. If some spectators make speculations on other characters it is only because in a murder story we are used to big surprises where the killer is the one that is the least expected to be. The lacks of the script can be easily justified by the fact that the story is restricted by its reference to reality. Not all films that are referring to a real story have these defects. Erin Brockovich easily springs to mind as a film on true story that had an excellent and very efficient script. Why would Fincher choose to do a film on a story that leaves the spectator so unsatisfied? Maybe he wanted to pass the message that in real life not always the bad guys are caught and punished. A big plus of the story is the main character: A cartoonist working at a newspaper who gets obsessed in solving the mystery. While the police gives up, he continues his research, loosing his wife and children until he has finally justified his curiosity and his sense of justice (?).
Fincher manages to create a dark filthy atmosphere full of despair and melancholy. Several of the scenes are at night time, while others take place in grey stark offices. On the contrary the last scene when the cartoonist faces the killer the scene is brightly lighted in a cruel white light. In Seven Fincher had used the same trick. In that film, however the colors remained vivid and rich among the dark. In Zodiac, all the colors seem washed away emphasizing the bleakness and the frustration of the reality. The down play of the colors creates a more documentaristic effect and conveys the boredom and hopelessness of a society where bureaucracy inhibits the police and where no one cares to catch a murder when he is no big news anymore.
The actors play their roles beautifully. Jake Gyllenhaal portraits very well a man who gets more and more obsessed with solving a riddle. The spectator might wonder if it is more important for him to catch the man who cruelly murdered so many people or to just solve the puzzles behind which the murderer hides his identity just for the shake of solving a riddle.
If you manage to get pass of the feeling of un-fulfillment and dissatisfaction you get as soon as the film ends, you can realize that Fincher has managed to do a good job. It manages to sustain the spectators attention even if doesn’t thrill him in the way that other “horror’ films do. The images Fincher created manage to convey successfully the undertone of the film. Zodiac even if is not Fincher’s masterpiece is a film worth of our notice.