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We revisit one of the most influential films in the last ten years.

seven movie reviewThe films that have had the greatest cultural impact are not always the most exemplary. But for whatever reason they seize the public imagination and run with it, often through a furious wave of subsequent mediocrity. Originally, former music-video director David Fincher's Se7en (1995) didn't hold much promise market-wise, despite its inherent star power. Genre fans scoffed at the presence of Brad Pitt - who was nevertheless no stranger to horror, with Cutting Class, Kalifornia and Interview with a Vampire under his belt already - and the Tiger-Beat set certainly wasn't going to respond well to the unglamorous characters and seedy set-dec. But the film surprised everyone by spawning a wealth of imitations -- conceptually, stylistically, and morally. Like it or not, it's become one of the pivotal genre films of the last decade.

The premise of Fincher's much-copied picture was simple: a serial killer/moral vigilante who uses the seven deadly sins -- gluttony, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy and wrath -- as his calling card. As David Mills and William Somerset respectively, Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are stock characters -- the impetuous young rookie partnered with the jaded and tight-lipped wise-man-on-the-mountain-type (complete with recognizable literary name). Their performances fit the film but are just components in a larger picture. Pitt tries too hard. The story was competently written but not especially clever.

So it comes as no shock that it wasn't to be Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman or even Kevin Spacey that would prove the star of Fincher's thriller - it was cinematographer Darius Khondji (Delicatessen, City of Lost Children) and to a lesser extent, Trent Reznor and the manufactured industrial aesthetic.

Khondji likely owes a certain debt to predecessors like The Element of Crime (1984) and Zentropa (1991) - along with veteran chiaroscuro cinematographer Vittorio Storaro -- but Se7en unleashed monochromatic saturation as the new standard. Spanish Aftermath director Nacho Cerda cited Khondji as unconsciously blazing a vital new stylistic path in Spain, with disciples like Alejandro Amenabar (Thesis), Paco Plaza (Abuelitos), Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (Intacto) and Jaume Balaguero (The Nameless) spearheading the New Spanish Fantastic shortly thereafter.

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