Austria     Belgium     Brazil     Canada     Denmark     Finland     France     Germany     Hungary     Iceland     Ireland     Italy     Luxembourg     The Netherlands     Norway     Poland     Spain     Sweden     Switzerland     UK     USA     

ICONS: David Fincher (Part 1)

On 10 November, David Fincher’s new thriller The Killer, starring Michael Fassbender and set in the Latin Quarter of Paris, will be released on Netflix. The legendary director of Seven and Fight Club has been working exclusively with Netflix since the great Mindhunter, and after Mank, The Killer is the second feature film he has made for the platform.

Before his unparalleled film career, David Fincher founded the Proganda studio in 1987, where he directed commercials (Nike, Chanel, Levi’s) and big-budget videos for artists such as Madonna, the Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop, Aerosmith and Sting, among others. The dark, claustrophobic environments that characterise his videos foreshadowed the world of his later films in many ways.

Fincher’s best music videos

1. Madonna: Vogue (1990)
2. Madonna: Express Yourself (1989)
3. George Michael: Freedom! ’90 (1990)
4. Iggy Pop: Home (1990)
5. Sting: Englishman In New York (1998)
6. Justin Timberlake: Suit & Tie (2013)
7. Paula Abdul: Straight Up (1989)
8. Nine Inch Nails: Only (2005)
9. Billy Idol: Cradle of Love (1990)
10. Aerosmith: Janie’s Got a Gun (1989)

Fincher, who has won a slew of awards for his videos, was 29 when he was given the opportunity to make his first major feature film, and the task was no easy one: 20th Century Fox had entrusted him with the completion of the Alien trilogy. Alien 3 (1992) had huge expectations, with a serious fanbase having developed around the first two films in the 1980s. The final part of the trilogy was a box-office and critical failure after its release. While Fincher perfectly recreated the oppressive, psychoanalytical environment of Ridley Scott’s first in the series, Alien (1979), his Ripley is resurrected from James Cameron’s in Aliens (1986), and transformed from a loving mother into a hardline “Mother Monster” who carries a virus. Ripley is thus an outcast patient whose condition condemns her to death.

In 1995, Fincher made a film of Andrew Kevin Walker’s Seven, one of the most memorable examples of neo-noir, and he was able to translate this hell on screen with much greater success. The story, an analysis of seven deadly sins, is framed by a seven-day, twisting dramaturgy. Fincher’s post-modern society, already moving out of the closed visual world of his earlier video works, is a kind of expansive hell. Between rookie detective John Mills (Brad Pitt) and seasoned veteran William Somerset (Morgan Freeman), the latter is a harbinger of a world gone by. With his cool demeanour and lack of sensibility, he and Mills make a perfectly odd team. Yet the story’s most distinctive protagonist is serial killer John Doe, made truly bizarre and unsettling by Kevin Spacey’s outstanding performance. Basic Instinct (1992) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991) were thrillers that highlighted violence and deviance. Seven, however, has a message, and playing the devastating God, wraps its judgments in indecipherable cultural contexts.

picturehouse cinemas

Seven became a veritable cult film, and Fincher was quickly given the opportunity to make another cult film in the wake of its success. The Game (1997) centres on Nickolas von Orton (Michael Douglas), a lonely, divorced banker who no longer trusts anyone. The only support in his isolated world is his younger brother (Sean Penn), who presents him with a business card on his birthday. Out of curiosity, Orton seeks out the company and enters into a game that finally brings a unique and unparalleled thrill to his life. The rules are not clear, and the player doesn’t know who he is playing against. The opponent seems to be non-existent, and the company running the game is a bunch of bribed actors and tricksters.


The protagonist of the novel Fight Club (1999), based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, is a product recall agent in our global capitalist world who suffers from insomnia. His doctor refuses to prescribe medication and instead advises him to join a patient support group to discover that others are suffering even more than he is. So he attends a meeting for people with testicular cancer, where he finally experiences the emotional relief that helps his insomnia disappear. Returning home from a business trip, he befriends soap salesman Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), with whom he sits down in a bar for a long discussion about consumerism, eventually leading to a brawl in the parking lot. Others join in the fights, which become a regular occurrence, and these fights then attract a growing crowd. Eventually, they move to the basement of the bar where they form the Fight Club. The studio was not impressed with the end result, to say the least, and while Fight Club did not make the money the producer had expected, it received very different reviews from the critics: it was called the most controversial and most discussed film of the year, and The Guardian hailed it as a harbinger of change in American politics.