By Rajoshi Seth (India)

 

The first impression of David Fincher’s Se7en is like staying afloat, aimlessly paddling through murky waters, until you finally realize the key is to sink.

This is not a film. It is a virtual autopsy of the perpetually overworked human brain (the never-ending rain in the background symbolizes the constant and often overwhelming thought currents).

Though foundation forming, Fincher cleverly devices references of the 7 deadly sins and its origins to form a pseudo scholastic veneer on the real, cryptic intention of the plot and characters. The actual mystery is to reach this state of revelation and each of us in the audience either becomes a Somerset or a Mills in the profoundly arduous process.

My attempts to individually dissect the three main characters failed miserably because they’re, in fact, no separate from each other.

They combine to form a visual representation of the tripartite human psyche as originally explained by Sigmund Freud.
• John Doe (Id)
• Detective Mills (Ego)
• Detective Somerset (Super Ego)

JOHN DOE. Driven by fetishistic violence, uninhibited, unapologetic and meticulously dangerous, this religious fanatic’s motive is to eradicate “sinners” and bless mankind as an embodiment of a Higher Power.

His puritanical claims seem to hold some authenticity until the climax where he traps himself in his own web. Even though he believes to have fallen prey to envious attributes, the fact that he butchered innocent (even going by his distorted rationale) Tracy and the unborn child contradicts his own theories and turns him into just another sociopath on a killing spree, simply to satiate his homicidal needs and project his own defects on to the external world.

DETECTIVE MILLS. The quintessential, know it all super cop with zero tolerance for ruthless criminals. He glares at the world through strictly black and white tinted glasses and appears slightly deluded by stereotypical conventions.

Ironically, Mills ends up becoming the element he despises most, John Doe. We already notice a bit of Doe in him when he keeps displaying double standards by wanting to resort to equally unacceptable and extreme means to punish Doe for his ghastly acts.

The chained Devil inside Mills eventually unleashes during the climax when he makes the villain victorious by seeking wrathful revenge against Doe for his own, reality drilling, incapacity to protect his wife and child. In a matter of seconds, the robust identity Mills created for himself shatters in front of his own eyes.

DETECTIVE SOMERSET. The veteran cop who is about to retire in a week. Perhaps as painstakingly methodical and scrupulous as John Doe, the single most trait setting the two apart is the former’s impeccable level of self-restraint.

Somerset is the only character in the entire film that remains ethically unimpaired throughout.

In spite of sympathizing and, occasionally, identifying with the faulty reasonings of Mills and Doe, not once do we see him succumb to these urges. In fact, right till the end, we find him making every effort to guide his morally straying counterparts back on a righteous track.

TRACY & THE UNBORN CHILD. Often superficially misinterpreted as a character of negligible importance, Tracy symbolizes the frequently overlooked and belittled notion of “feminine sacrifice”. Creating the spine for the plot/brain, her murder is what brings the story to a full circle. She creates the hero, she creates the villain, and finally merges the two.

The unborn child is the happy ending that never came to life, as boldly stated on the film’s initial poster.

[Murray, Terri. “Se7en”. Philosophy Now, issue 78, 2010]

Rating: 4/5

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