¨Se7en¨ Is the Movie That Set the Bar for All Neo-noir Films

Se7en is a masterclass on how to do a neo-noir movie.


Se7en is a masterclass on how to do a neo-noir movie.

The orderly chaos of life can be a hard thing to describe. Having the many sounds of nature and man go against each other but still harmonizing with the motif of advancement and change is how “Se7en” builds its world. ¨Se7en¨ is a movie all about the order and disorder of the world.

The movie starts very quickly. Within the first three scenes they have not only established the two main characters of the story, but they have also established their personalities if you read in between the lines. The main characters Detective Mills and Detective Somerset are as close to opposites as any relatively grounded story can be. Detective Somerset is more grounded and methodical; he is also very cynical of the very machinations of the department that he works for and questions the weight and importance of the work that he does. On the other side of the coin, you have Detective Mills, whose gung ho, almost arrogant attitude can leave him overlooking important details and doing some things irrationally.

The nature of the homicides that the Detectives investigate very quickly link together under one key principle: the seven deadly sins. Getting closer and closer to the murderer they end up nearly catching him but, for reasons unknown to the viewer at the time, he turns himself in after the failed chase. After arresting him they start questioning him about his supposed message or mission that he is on. He offers the two detectives a deal. The murderer says, ¨there are two more bodys. I can take you to them but only if both detectives come along.¨ Detective Summerset is cautious about this but Detective Mills wants to finish what they have started. They both decide to go and they take the murderer, John Doe, to where he says that he has hidden the last two bodies. Throughout the car ride the murderer keeps telling Detective Mills how much he admires him.

Finally arriving at the supposed place where he hid the bodies a van starts driving by. Detective Summerset goes to see what the vans business is and the driver has been paid to deliver a package. All the while Detective Mills is watching John Doe keeping him at gunpoint. After Detective Summerset opens the package John Doe remarks about how lucky he is to have such a nice and beautiful wife and ¨left with a souvenir. Her pretty little head.¨ Detective Summerset knowing that he wants a rise out of Detective Mills. Tries to stop Mills from shooting John Doe. All the while, John Doe is talking about how his sin is envy and how he wants Detective Mills to become wrath. Detective Mills ends up becoming wrath by shooting John Doe then finishing his ¨masterpiece¨ of crime.

After watching this movie, two main scenes stuck with me as being one of the best I have seen in neo-noir film. This movie tells a lot about the atmosphere. One of the defining features of any branch of film noir is the use of light and many different film concepts such as Dutch angles and dualitys with shadows. If you know what to spot watching films, especially film noir, it becomes much more interesting.

In the opening scenes, you see Detective Summerset slowly and methodically putting things on his person in a way that tells you about his character. On the other hand you have Detective Mills. Who is more eager and hot headed than his more experienced counterpart. This is all expressed through film techniques and subtle actions throughout the film.
The first example being that Detective Somerset sleeps with a metronome. My interpretation of that was to supposedly give him some order and tempo to his life that can sleep in. This is in character for him because he in a later scene expressed his jadedness about his profession and how he doubts the importance of what he does. In his words, ¨We just write down the dates and times of things that we see that will never be resolved.¨

When he expresses his cynical philosophy to Detective Mills, he doesn’t doubt that he believes that but he thinks that he believes them under the thought that it will give him solace and closure when he decides to leave. After Detective Summerset is back at his apartment he tries sleeping with the metronome but he can´t. He now understands that his fabricated beliefs were just that, fabricated. All of this is told through symbolism and subtle dialogue.

The second being how the director, David Fisher, uses really dark and thick and grungy mise en scene for the crime scenes. This allows the viewer to feel almost involved in the casing of the crime scene. On the other side of the coin you have ¨The Batman.¨ When going through crime scene you still feel like you are in the room with all of the dark lighting and dusty mise en scene present in both movies; however, you are on the sidelines, watching a detective at work instead of using your own reasoning. The crime scenes in “Se7en” are rarely explicitly explained if they are obvious. This gives the viewer a better feeling of involvement.

¨Se7en¨ has become one of my favorite movies and I believe that it has set a standard since its release in 1995 that few movies have surpassed. ¨Se7en¨ has cemented itself as one of the best neo-noir films in history and will continue to shock and thrill many viewers.