David Fincher has come to be known for visually and thematically dark tales, and for disturbing audiences. But surprisingly he came to film from much more mainstream work in commercials and music videos. He directed TV commercials for Nike, Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Heineken, Pepsi, Levi's, Converse, AT&T, and Chanel; and directed music videos for Madonna, Sting, The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Aerosmith, and George Michael. Early on in his career he also worked in various capacities for George Lucas' effects company Industrial Light and Magic. He remains a unique talent to watch.
For an early look at his career and style check out this DVD. You can find most of David Fincher's music videos on YouTube, but this collection of Madonna videos offers ones made before he began his feature film career. Fincher contributed "Express Yourself" (a mix of sweaty, hunky guys and a glammed up Madonna), and "Oh Father" and "Vogue" (a pair of elegant black and white videos).
Fincher's first feature was this late entry in the Alien franchise. Set on a rundown prison planet, Alien³ is the bleakest and most nihilistic of the sequels. You can see hints of Fincher's penchant for striking production design and his flair for unnerving the audience with uncomfortable elements. Not exactly an auspicious debut but you can see an eager, creative talent at work.
This is the film that created buzz for Fincher. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are cops on the trail of a brutal serial killer who's using the seven deadly sins as the template for his murders. Chilling, disturbing, and relentlessly dark, Se7en is riveting. The opening credits gained attention for setting the creepy mood with music by Nine Inch Nails and visuals by Imaginary Forces.
Michael Douglas plays Nicholas Van Orton, a wealthy San Francisco banker. It's his 48th birthday, and he's about to spend it alone. But then he gets an invite from his estranged brother (Sean Penn). The invitation is to take part in a unique game custom designed to Van Orton's personality. Once he accepts the invitation, his life gets turned upside down. He gets mysterious notes, his television begins addressing him, and that's just the beginning of the bizarre things that start to happen. The Game develops a deep sense of paranoia and delivers a clever if rather coldly calculated puzzle box.
"The first rule of Fight Club is you don't talk about Fight Club?" But once the movie came out, everyone was talking about Fight Club. Fincher's adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's novel was a dark, nasty piece of work that was hard to take your eyes off of – like a car crash on the side of the road. Edward Norton is a dull worker drone who gets a major life makeover from the manic Brad Pitt. Fincher pays meticulous attention to every tiny detail to make this film visually compelling. It gets a little sloppy at the end and the nihilism is a bit smug, but you can't deny the film's darkly irresistible appeal.
Fincher almost worked with Jodie Foster on The Game. In this film she stars as a mother who has to contend with protecting her family and fending off three intruders. Fincher is a filmmaker who understands creepiness - I’m not talking about horror but rather something subtler and more unnerving. Simply put, it’s an ability to make the audience feel uneasy even in seemingly mundane settings. That skill is put to good use in this film about a woman and her daughter who find themselves imprisoned in their own "safe" room.
The real and still unresolved case of San Francisco's Zodiac Killer is the basis for this film. It looks to a trio of men – a newspaper cartoonist (Jake Gyllenhaal), a reporter (Robert Downey, Jr.), and a cop (Mark Ruffalo) – who all become obsessed with a murderer who terrorizes the city over an extended period of time. The film follows the case with meticulous care and perfectly captures the '70s era in which the story takes place. Fincher excels in some scenes at creating unsettling tension as the three men keep encountering men that they think are the killer.
Loosely adapted from an F. Scott Fitzgerald story, the film spins a tale of a man who ages in reverse. Like Thorton Wilder’s play Our Town, the film takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary by tweaking the perspective from which we view everyday life. Fincher endows the film with the most exquisite visual style, employing such old school techniques as matte paintings to give the film a surreal and even romanticized quality. This also marks the third collaboration between Fincher and star Brad Pitt.
Fincher serves up this fictionalized account of how the social networking site Facebook came to be. He's less concerned with what Facebook is and who its creator Mark Zuckerberg is, and is more interested in how people have lost the ability to interact face-to-face in an intimate manner. The film boasts a sharp, sometime nasty script by Aaron Sorkin. The irony is that although it is a movie driven by dialogue, people rarely communicate well with each other.
Rooney Mara so much on The Social Network that he decided to give her the choice role of Lisbeth Salander in the English language remake of the Danish-Swedish co-production The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Stieg Larsson's often harsh crime novel provides Fincher with some enticing material but you also have to ask if a remake of such a recent and successful foreign film is really necessary.