Sunday, January 18, 2009

Getting Dirty in The Game

As Ed Howard and I reviewed the films of David Fincher for our first installment of The Conversations, a theme surfaced: Fincher likes characters who get dirty. Why? Because if you’re staying clean, you’re not engaging in life. For examples, think of Se7en, where the ever-determined Mills (Brad Pitt) gets rained on, beaten and cut in his hunt for a serial killer, or think of Fight Club, where Jack (Edward Norton) trades in his IKEA-ideal apartment for a condemned ramshackle abode, and then trades punches with friends for a good time.

The best example, however, can be found in The Game. Michael Douglas’ Nicholas Van Orton begins the story with wealth, extravagance and cleanliness (he even has a shower in his office), but he isn’t living. He’s haunted by the memory of his father’s suicide, and he’s lonely. In terms of material possessions, he lacks nothing. In terms of emotional possessions, he’s flat broke. Over the course of the film, Nicholas learns to live again by breaking out of his hermetically sealed existence.

As an addendum to my discussion with Ed, I wanted to provide highlights of Nicholas’ long, slow crawl through the muck – his reengagement with the world. The images below highlight that transformation, but they also do something else: demonstrate Fincher’s knack for embedding deeper meaning and social commentary into the margins of otherwise streamlined, crowd-pleasing thrillers.

Before the game ...

The game begins ...

Is that a Mona Lisa smile there at the end?


Ed Howard said...

Nicely done, Jason. It strikes me, looking at this, that you could probably do a similar progression with Ed Norton from Fight Club.

Richard Bellamy said...

You use stills very dynamically in your posts - and this series of shots shows a dramatic transformation. Also, the shot of the graveyard demonstrates Fincher's skill for framing an image that says a lot. Your posted images here suggest that I need to revisit "The Game" - a film whose story gimmick I had trouble buying into and believing - though I liked the metaphorical message.

PIPER said...

Great observation Jason.

This works in a non-literal sense as well. The scene that comes to mind is when Nicholas can't get his briefcase open. He leaves the meeting quickly and then throws a tantrum trying to open his briefcase. He's used to everything working smoothly.

I'm pleased to see that you and Ed spoke about this. It's one of my favorite Fincher movies and I have always wished it would get the Fincher treatment in DVD because how fascinating would the behind the scenes story be on this one? Allow me to answer that. Very.

Jason Bellamy said...

PIPER: Thanks. "The Game" was one I remembered for the gimmick and grew to appreciate on a whole new level thanks to reviewing it for my discussion with Ed -- just one of the many reasons to be excited about the whole process of "The Conversations."

Anyway, that's one of the reasons I wanted to post these pictures, to help convince others that the film is something deeper, too.