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Fincher’s 1995 classic thriller ‘Se7en’ is about a veteran Detective, William
Somerset portrayed by Morgan Freeman. He tackles his final case with the
company of a young detective, David Mills, played by Brad Pitt.

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Together they
play cat and mouse with a Serial Killer, John Doe, revealed to be Kevin Spacey latter
in the film. His name was deliberately removed in the opening credits for the
audience to be surprised on who the serial killer’s identity was.


In this
anonymous city, the detectives discover a number of elaborate and grisly
murders with each one representing the seven deadly sins.


First Scene: John Does’ apartment or ‘Sloth Murder’

The scene
where the detectives find the third victim ‘Sloth’. Cinematographer Darius
Khondji used a technique by applying a silver-retention process to the film
negatives and combining it with chiaroscuro lighting which resulted “a dark,
moody and bleak mise-en-scene” making the contrast of light and dark. This
obscures the audiences’ vision but also supports them to see the horrifying world
in which Se7en exists. Khondji also used many handheld and over the shoulder
shots which makes it feel more similar to the way that we navigate our world
and when executed at the highest-level like in Se7en it makes the distance
closer between the film and its audience. It implies a subjective narrator in
the same way that writing fiction in the first person does.


Second scene: The chase

After the
discovery of the Sloth victim, Somerset uses his intel with a FBI contact to
get some potential information who checked out ‘flagged’ library books relating
to the seven deadly sins. They get a lead on a man named John Doe, but when
they visit his apartment, a man’s silhouette approaches and shoots a gun at the
detectives.  Throughout the film, the
setting is often obscured by rain, this makes the location emphasise the
characters conflicted emotions and create an atmosphere of hopelessness. The
rain can also serve to confuse the audience, which heightens the suspense and
drama of the sequence particularly in this chase scene. After a long chase, Detective
Mills gets hit in the face, drops his gun, Doe picks up, presses the gun at
Mills temple, while the rain dripping threateningly off it. There is a tension
of whether he’s going to shoot Mills, the depth of field is focused on the gun
and the silhouette of man is only seen. The rain was effectively used to create
reflections, a stylistic element used in some films in which the character of
John Doe is distorted, giving an ominous and menacing presence, making the audience
unsure and wary of who they are seeing.


Third scene: car scene

The only time
it stopped raining is in the last few scenes of the film after John Doe
surrendered himself and made a deal to take a trip with the detectives to a dry,
hell-like desert. 


The technique
of chiaroscuro is frequently used in conjunction with difficulties such as bars
or rails that assists to frame the morality of the characters and foreshadow
their fates.


In this
scene, a barrier conceals John doe capturing him to communicate to the audience
that he is the ‘bad guy’. In contrast, Detective Somerset is presented out of
all confining devices which tells the audience that he is the ‘good guy’. On
the other hand, it becomes interesting when the camera shots showing that
Detective Mills is both at times obstructed behind bars and sometimes not,
which can be questioned that is Detective Mills a bad guy? The imagery of the
bars when showing Mills connotes the ‘grey area’ of his morality foreshadowing his
fate. The close-up shots of their faces directs the narrative and helps convey
emotion to emphasise the point in the scene.


Final scene: The box

Fincher opens
the scene with a close up shot of Detective Somerset who just approached a
courier van with a delivery package for Detective Mills. From his agitated
moves and his worried face, he demonstrates curiosity that he, as well as the audience,
possess which is the desire to open the box. The diegetic sounds of the birds
singing in the background juxtaposes the situation as it portrays that there is
evidence of tension and anticipation, which in contrast to the melodious
singing of the birds. The diegetic sound of the wind conveys the isolation of
their location. This provides the audience a sense of foreboding as it creates tension
due to the minimal sounds like the knife opening the box.


The scene connotes
isolation as it is shot in a desert area far in proximity from society. A close
up shot of the box demonstrates the it is the central point in the third act. While
Detective Somerset is engaged with the box, Detective Mills is guarding John
Doe, who is kneeling signifies his current superiority and authority over John
Doe. The use of depth of field between John Doe and Detective Mills presents Mills
as the focal point of the shot, he is also attempting to block out John Doe’s
communication. From doing this the camera is used to retain the enigma
surrounding John Doe’s identity and character as his face is not shown to the
audience just like at the end of the chase scene.


There is a
hint of blood when Detective Somerset opens the box, however, the director
chose to not show the content as it may indicate that whatever was inside the
box is grotesque and horrific just from Somerset’s reaction, this makes the
audience more eager to know what’s in the box. There is a shot reverse shot
between the box and Somerset revealing his instant reaction to the content of
the box. There is suspense stimulated while the camera zooms into his face and
to the box for three seconds.


We return to
Doe, his head haloed by the sun as if he has achieved his divine mission that he
was chosen to fulfil by God.


The camera
cuts away to the police men in a helicopter, from here the pace and extremity
of the scene begins to increase, the shaky movement of the camera illuminates
the severity of the situation while hearing the obvious diegetic sound of the
helicopter flying. The impulsive non-diegetic soundtrack creates a tense
atmosphere of uneasiness. The camera cuts from panning into a close up shot of
Detective Somerset’s concerned face to a wide shot of Mills and Doe, which indicate
the separation between them and it implies that the box has a connection with
them. Along with this, the sequences of cross-cutting is effective in making
the audience question what is happening in the scene, “what is inside the box?”


The low angle
shot of John Doe facing ahead signifies his authority and dominance while his
master plan unravels with him knowing the contents of the box, whereas, Detective
Mills is perceived as confused and provoked. Consistent shot-reverse-shot are
used when John Doe attempts to get Mills attention to stop him from listening
to Somerset. This demonstrates the tenacious nature of Doe against Mills. As John
Doe converses with Mills about how much he ‘admires’ his life and his ‘pretty
little wife’, the audience start to feel the heavy tension naturally building up.

His monotonous voice also suggests that he does not care about anything and is
willing to make Mills lose everything. The audience can hear the diegetic
shouting of Somerset in the background. Hand-held shots were effectively used
in a wide shot of Somerset rushing back towards Mills and John Doe creating anticipation
as the camera makes the audience experience the chaotic action occurring in the


The coherent zooming and panning close up shots
of John Doe’s face contrasts with Mills’ face, calm and collective whilst Mills
is in distress, walking frantically as he torments him. Though Doe is shown to
be inferior, on his knees, to the detectives, the wide shot portrays otherwise displaying
Doe’s ability to maintain power using his manipulative manner. The gun can be
seen as a threatening item drawing the imminent violence of the film with the
mid-shot of Mills pointing it towards Doe. This suggests another expression of
power and authority. At this point, the audience is left with apprehension as
they are unaware of what Mills will do – will he stay morally just as a
detective or will he succumb to the seven deadly sin ‘wrath’ that Doe wishes
for. Somerset’s fearful expression is depicted in a close up shot as he too is
unaware of the magnitude of his partner’s rage

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