Director David Fincher has been a long-time devotee of Alfred Hitchcock and his latest work seems to be the ultimate love letter to the ‘master of suspense’.
Although no stranger to dark crime dramas – such as Seven (1995) and Zodiac (2007) – Fincher has never really explored the mind of a killer, instead opting to craft impeccable procedurals, filled with dread.
His latest, an adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best-selling novel, explores what happens when a marriage turns particularly sour: Nick and Amy Dunne (Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike) have relocated to recession-hit Missouri and when the latter goes missing things really kick off.
To say much more about the plot is tricky because the narrative is filled with startling developments and many hidden pleasures. Even those who have read the book will savour the many twists, turns and dark humour that Fincher puts on screen.
It is some achievement that the director and novelist, adapting her own book, manage to juggle so many plot strands and characters, who include Nick’s loyal sister (Carrie Coon), a local detective (Kim Dickens), Amy’s rich ex-boyfriend (Neil Patrick Harris) and a superstar attorney (Tyler Perry).
That they do so with such precision and skill, will delight fans of the director and the book, but it also marks new ground for one of finest directors working in Hollywood. Previously his films have mainly explored male points of view, but here he delves into the dynamics of men and women.
The institution of marriage, especially the notion of a ‘perfect couple’, is by the end of the movie so prodded and pulled apart that by the end it feels like one of John Doe’s victims in Seven.
Modern, tabloid news coverage is also dissected with a knowing, penetrating wit. Often, the media circus surrounding the case of Nick and the missing ‘Amazing Amy’ resembles the climax of Billy Wilder’s Ace in the Hole (1951), another example of a master auteur and satirist.
However, all roads seem to lead back to Hitchcock. There are so many of his tropes on display here: a ‘wrong man’ setup; an icy blonde; carefully controlled dolly shots and pans; an important shower scene; even sections that resemble the wilder elements of Vertigo (1958) and Marnie (1964).
Unlike some of Brian De Palma’s work, this is more than an elaborate homage: the flashbacks and shifts in perspective provide a solid foundation for the cast to do some of the best work of their careers.
Affleck is perfectly cast and pulls off a role that is trickier than it might appear at first; Pike reveals hidden depths after a recent run of supporting turns; Tyler Perry is a deeply unexpected delight, whilst the rest of the cast all fit neatly into the world Fincher has sculpted.
Trent Reznor’s haunting electronic score adds a rich aural flavour to proceedings, whilst DP Jeff Cronenweth helps provide the customary dark palette that Fincher is so fond of.
Gone Girl is the kind of film that needs to seen again and perhaps demands another review with spoilers, for a full discussion of its many qualities. But for the moment, it is a film you should definitely see, one of the best of the year so far.
Asperger syndrome, also known as Asperger’s syndrome or Asperger disorder, is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. It differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development. Although not required for diagnosis, physical clumsiness and atypical use of language are frequently reported.
Autism and Asperger syndrome are both part of a range of related developmental disorders known as autistic spectrum disorders (ASD). They begin in childhood and persist through adulthood.
ASD can cause a wide range of symptoms, which are grouped into three broad categories, described below.
Problems and difficulties with social interaction, such as a lack of understanding and awareness of other people’s emotions and feelings.
Impaired language and communication skills, such as delayed language development and an inability to start conversations or take part in them properly.
Unusual patterns of thought and physical behaviour. This includes making repetitive physical movements, such as hand tapping or twisting. The child develops set routines of behaviour, which can upset the child if the routines are broken.
He makes the claim that it may have played a key role in the shaping of Hollywood:
I think it not impossible that Asberger’s syndrome helped make the movie business.
The symptoms of the developmental disorder include early precocity, a great ability to maintain masses of information, a lack of ability to mix with groups in age-appropriate ways, ignorance of or indifference to social norms, high intelligence, and difficulty with transitions, married to a preternatural ability to concentrate on the minutia of the task at hand.
This sounds to me like a job description for a movie director.
He goes on to say:
Let me also note that Asberger’s syndrome has it’s highest prevalence among Ashkenazi Jews and their descendants. For those who have not been paying attention, this group constitutes, and has constituted since its earliest days, the bulk of America’s movie directors and studio heads.
“The best evidence for Kubrick being an Asperger is not perfectionism,it is the recurring themes of his films.
Aspies see themselves, or think the world sees them as robots, computers, or aliens. In A.I. Artificial Intelligence, the main character is a robot who thinks he is human. HAL, in 2001 is also a piece of artificial intelligence, a human-like computer. The definition of “A Clockwork Orange” in the first page of the book “a clockwork orange-meaning that he has the appearance of an organism but is in fact only a clockwork toy”
His preference for enormous numbers of repeated takes might also indicate something: a simple line by Scatman Crothers in The Shining (1980) was reputedly shot 148 times, a record for the most takes of a single scene.
Asberger’s was the subject of Adam (2009), a drama about a young man (Hugh Dancy) and his relationship with his new neighbour (Rose Byrne), which won the Alfred P. Sloan prize at the Sundance festival – an award that acknowledges films that focus on science and technology.
Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) is another computer hacker with limited social skills, but her character is arguably a key reason why the book caught on in the way that it did.
Not only does it reverse the gender stereotype seen so often in Hollywood – e.g. man saves ‘the damsel in distress’ – but it possibly reflects a generation of women not only comfortable with computers, but capable of using them as a tool to fight their various battles.
In the same way that Zuckerberg uses his coding skills to outwit the entitled Winklevoss twins, Salander utilises her hacking skills to get revenge on various sleazy and sexist men.
Let’s not forget that the original title of Steig Larrson’s novel was “Men Who Hate Women” and that the female protagonist was partly inspired by the author witnessing the gang rape of a girl, which led to his lifelong hatred of violent abuse against women.
Her position as an outsider is thus cemented by her endurance of abuse as well as her distant personality – the fact that her character has resonated so strongly in pop culture, surely suggests something about the sexism and intolerance that is still prevalent in the modern world.
Q4: You’ve made films where improbable things look realistic. Did you ever consider making a superhero movie or fantasy, where things are bit more difficult to make believable?
Fincher: I was asked if I might be interested in the first Spider-Man, and I went in and told them what I might be interested in doing, and they hated it. No, I’m not interested in doing “A Superhero”. The thing I liked about Spider-Man was I liked the idea of a teenager, the notion of this moment in time when you’re so vulnerable yet completely invulnerable. But I wasn’t interested in the genesis, I just couldn’t shoot somebody being bitten by a radioactive spider – just couldn’t sleep knowing I’d done that. [audience laughs]
But if you think about it, The Social Network is a kind of superhero movie where geeky outsiders (like Peter Parker or the X-Men) use their special talents to create something bigger than themselves – its just in this case its a website that connects millions of people rather than a symbolic crimefighter.
Like Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin falling out over Facebook, Spiderman creators Lee and Steve Ditko had some disagreement over the character who would become famous – essentially, Lee did the writing whilst Ditko did the drawing.
People I discussed The Social Network with seemed divided about the central character: older viewers perceived him as a jerk who betrayed his friends, whilst younger one saw him as a hero for sticking it to the privileged Harvard elite and building a website that has become a huge part of their lives.
In fact, the film works as a brilliant metaphor for Hollywood itself – brilliant Jewish upstarts defy the East coast establishment (represented by the Winklevoss twins) to find their nirvana on the West Coast (Silicon Valley).
The photo the Zuckerberg character he keeps refreshing is that of a former girlfriend played by Rooney Mara, the very same actress who plays Lisbeth Salander, reinforcing the connection between the films.
The central character is famous in Germany for being – as the title might suggest – one of those real-life enigmas who has inspired endless debate.
He appeared in a Nuremberg village in 1828 with no language, he was taken in by the local doctor who tried to help assimilate him to normal society.
Part of the fascination with central character and Herzog’s film are the underlying questions it throws up, but Baron-Cohen thinks it is significant for other reasons:
Kaspar Hauser might be the first well-documented case of autism in literature, or even in history.
Some people wonder whether autism is just a modern phenomenon, but here we have a very early account. The film (and the original book) raises very similar issues to those raised in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and shares a main character who is somehow detached from humanity.
Like The Curious Incident, Kaspar Hauser also suffered neglect and abuse (of a different kind – he was reportedly chained up and isolated for the first 17 years of his life), so this by no means represents autism.
Indeed, it could be more similar to the case of Genie, a so-called feral child who was also reared in isolation and never properly developed language or social skills.
It taps into the same fascination that anthropologists have with other cultures, but in this case it is a fascination with someone who is not part of any culture.
There’s a sort of mirroring that goes on, because the character is so detached he is observing other people. Some people with Asperger syndrome describe themselves as feeling as though they came from another planet: they watch human interaction and they don’t quite understand it. They don’t feel that they can participate in it.
Baron-Cohen has hit on something here about autism and the power of cinema.
It is a medium which presents us with an immersive ‘second reality’ on screen and that rare chance to escape from our sense of self (as long as the film isn’t really bad).
‘Escapism’ is often used as a derogatory term for disposable entertainment, but surely any film that achieves a sense of escape from ourselves is successful on some level.
For people suffering from a sense that they can’t participate in ‘normal society’ (which by they way, isn’t so normal these days), it may come as a welcome relief.
The spectrum of autism – of which Asberger’s is a part – is something that the mainstream media and general public finds hard to grapple with.
Perhaps because the stereotypes perpetuated and recycled through the media, only increase the social taboo, prevent discussion and increase the sense of isolation.
But it is heartening to know that one of the UK’s leading experts finds something of real value in a Herzog movie.
The German auteur has carved out a unique career in both features and documentaries, and Kaspar Hauser was his international breakthrough – it is ironic that a film about isolation should connect internationally.
Perhaps the recent spate of films dealing with autism can have a similar connection, not just with people who have the condition but with the wider public too.
Asberger’s and autism is much more than the ‘annoying kid’ in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close or Dustin Hoffman’s autistic savant in Rain Main (1988).
It may be embedded in the very DNA of Hollywood and some cinemas greatest filmmakers.
David Fincher brings his full digital armoury to Stieg Larsson‘s bestseller and the result is a masterful adaptation hampered only by the limitations of the source material.
When journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is hired by the patriarch of a rich Swedish family (Christopher Plummer) to investigate the disappearance of a family member in the 1960s, he eventually crosses paths with computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) as they gradually uncover a web of intrigue in a society with many dark secrets.
Major Hollywood studios have shied away from making adult dramas in recent years, so Sony giving a director free reign on dark tale of conspiracy, rape and murder represented something of a risk.
Inevitable is perhaps a misleading word, because although it was highly likely they would produce a version, one might have expected that they would tone down the darker elements of the book to appeal to a wider audience.
But given that the mix of graphic sexual violence and conspiracy plays such a large part in their appeal, Sony and MGM faced a quandary.
Do they dilute them down to a PG-13 and risk a fan backlash?
Or create that rare thing in the modern era, a wide release for adult audience?
They opted for the latter and recruited none other than director David Fincher, who had just made The Social Network for the studio and has a track record of police procedural thrillers.
It just so happens that the end result contains elements of Seven (a serial killer movie with gothic elements), Zodiac (a slow burn drama that looks into the mystery of the past) and the aforementioned The Social Network (the story of an outsider who uses technology to outwit people).
From the startling opening credits, it is clear that we are in Fincher-land: the impeccable compositions, polished design, razor-sharp visuals and haunted protagonists all feel a natural part of his filmmaking landscape.
The screenplay by Steven Zaillian does a highly effective job at compressing the sprawling strands of the novel into a coherent whole.
Those familiar with the book might know that Salander and Mikael are kept apart for a large part of the story and the resulting investigation involves a raft of supporting characters as the elusive history of the Vanger family slowly emerges.
Zaillian has largely stayed faithful to the book, but also added some welcome improvements – especially in the latter stages – whilst the editing by Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter is remarkably precise and efficient in keeping the story moving.
Before filming began much attention was focused on who would get the coveted role of Lisbeth Salander and Rooney Mara delivers a powerful performance in what is a challenging role, both mentally and physically.
Daniel Craig conveys a certain rugged charm as Blomkvist and when they finally get together their unlikely chemistry clicks into place nicely, bridging the gender and generational divide which have been a large part of the book’s global appeal.
The illustrious supporting cast also do solid work: Plummer is wholly believable as the head of the Vanger clan; Stellan Skarsgard is sly and charming as his son; whilst actors like Steven Berkoff, Robin Wright, Joely Richardson and Geraldine James expertly fill out key smaller roles.
All of these elements are marshalled with military precision by Fincher, who has delivered a technically brilliant adaptation of the source material, which should satisfy the global fanbase.
There is a noble tradition of pulpy best sellers becoming classic movies (Psycho, The Godfather and Jaws) and this version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo represents an interesting example of transferring words to screen.
However, there remains a sense that this whole exercise is a bit like fitting a Ferrari engine into a Volvo: isn’t the army of A-list talent assembled here vastly superior to Larsson’s potboiler?
Although it deals with interesting issues which Hollywood rarely touches – violence towards women, the insidious nature of right-wing politics in supposedly liberal countries – it nevertheless follows the crime fiction template right down to the letter.
But the material upon which this film is based feels like a series of plot points squeezed into a tight-fitting story, with hardly any breathing space left after the multiple revelations and plot twists.
Readers have been presumably drawn precisely because of this mix of page-turning intrigue but I suspect what really took it to another level of popularity was the central combination of regular male hero and strikingly unusual female anti-hero.
But after the books and Swedish produced film trilogy, how much appetite is there for this?
I suspect that a major global release like this will make significant money, although whether enough to justify further films remains to be seen.
For a filmmaker like Fincher, who has crafted two ground-breaking police thrillers in Seven and Zodiac, the fundamental material inevitably feels something of a step down for him, like asking a renaissance master to draw in crayon.
It is to his credit that the end result is an invigorating entertainment and a curiously timely blockbuster for Christmas 2011, as we reflect on what a dark and corrupt place the world has become.
As part of the viral campaign for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Sony have released an ingenious recreation of a 1990s TV show.
It has never ceased to amaze me how badly big budget movies have traditionally executed on screen news graphics (e.g. that ‘news report’ during climax of Spiderman 3).
But David Fincher isn’t the kind of director to allow sloppy visuals into his movies.
Even if he just oversaw it, his noted perfectionism and knowledge of various video formats may have influenced the final result, due to his extensive work in commercials and music videos since the 1980s.
So perhaps that was why this fantastic recreation of Hard Copy appeared on YouTube recently:
Those who have read the book, or seen the Swedish film, will note how events from the plot are woven into the news segment.
But check out the audio and visual fidelity to the original show.
It appears the look they were going for was a VHS copy recorded to TV, transferred to a computer and then uploaded to YouTube – note the tracking lines and period commercials.
Digital editing programs now it easier to recreate this older look but it is still an impressive feat, along with some (possible) Easter eggs for the eagle-eyed.
If you want to compare it with the actual show, check out this actual clip from September 1989:
If you don’t remember it, Hard Copy was a US tabloid news show that ran from 1989 to 1999.
Like a sleazy tabloid cousin of 60 Minutes, it wasn’t afraid of sneaky tactics and attracted controversy due its airing of violent material.
In short, a perfect fit for the dark world of Steig Larsson‘s book.
Note that the channel is called Mouth Taped Shut, which is also the blog which has been hosting various production photos and viral tidbits.
For the last fourteen months Atticus and I have been hard at work on David Fincher’s “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”. We laughed, we cried, we lost our minds and in the process made some of the most beautiful and disturbing music of our careers. The result is a sprawling three-hour opus that I am happy to announce is available for pre-order right now for as low as $11.99. The full release will be available in one week – December 9th.
You have two options right now:
VIsit iTunes here where you can immediately download Karen O’s and our version of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” when you pre-order the soundtrack for $11.99.
You can also check it on soundcloud and also see how popular it is by checking the number of plays. click here for more info if you want to know how to get more soundcloud plays for your music.
You will also be able to exclusively watch the legendary 8-minute trailer you may have heard about (no purchase necessary obviously). We scored this trailer separately from the film, BTW.
Visit our store here. We’re offering a variety of purchasing options including multiple format high-quality digital files, CDs and a really nice limited edition deluxe package containing vinyl and a flash drive.
In addition, RIGHT NOW you can download a six-track, 35 minute sampler with no purchase necessary.
1. Immigrant Song
2. She Reminds Me Of You
3. People Lie All The Time
4. Pinned and Mounted
6. What If We Could?
7. With the Flies
8. Hidden In Snow
9. A Thousand Details
10. One Particular Moment
11. I Can’t Take It Anymore
12. How Brittle The Bones
13. Please Take Your Hand Away
14. Cut Into Pieces
15. The Splinter
16. An Itch
18. Under the Midnight Sun
20. You’re Here
21. The Same As the Others
22. A Pause for Reflection
23. While Waiting
24. The Seconds Drag
25. Later Into the Night
26. Parallel Timeline (Alternate Outcome)
27. Another Way of Caring
28. A Viable Construct
29. Revealed In the Thaw
31. We Could Wait Forever
33. Great Bird of Prey
34. The Heretics
35. A Pair of Doves
37. The Sound Of Forgetting
38. Of Secrets
39. Is Your Love Strong Enough?
Sony also recently released this 8-minute trailer, which is quite an interesting thing to do before a major release like this: