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Seven (1995) - Enigmatic Code and Cultural Code

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There is a very interesting, enigmatic scene, many people like that, it is rain sequence, city is drenched in rain and Brad Pitt chasing the killer and the killer almost gets him. Yeah, he puts the gun on his head, but does not shoot, he walks away. If you watch the movie for the first time, do you ever wonder what is going on here? Do you think that is an enigma there? Yeah, I mean, you know, the killer if he wants to, if he is after self preservation, if he wants to, if he does notwant to be caught then why would he let a very very smart detective get away?He had all the chance, all the opportunity in the world to kill him, but he does not do thatand that is another enigma. Why does not he kill Brad Pitt?Why cannot Brad Pitt our hero, save himself?Why does not Morgan Freeman arrive from somewhere and save Brad Pitt?But Brad Pitt is saved by the killer, enigmatic.Why does the killer turn himself in enigmatic?So, the movie plays on these rules. Any question at this point, I have been talking too much?Any comments, anything that you can recall from the movie?Student: The movie actually based Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey,Brad Pitt is never brought out as the hero.Exactly, so that is the point. Intellectually they are on the same wavelength,Doe and Somerset, yeah. Therefore, this younger hero, the rookie, it is, if you want to lookat him as a hero, well, it is a coming of age movie, right; there is some learning thattakes place, however horrific that learning. He learns a life lesson and he also knowswhy this particular horror was done to him; he realizes something about himself, somethingthat we all understand but we never feel that it is such a big sin, that it should be punished so horribly.So, the movie actually pits up Doe again Somerset, but Brad Pitt character becomes a medium.First murder, that is committed and afterevery commit, after every murder, he, the killer leaves his signature signed.He is trying to leave certain clues behind. So, gluttony, how does he kill the gluttony?By forcing him to eat till his stomach bursts.They slot where the so called, sinner is tied to the bed for one year.A beautiful woman taking pride in her beauty, her face is cut off andthen she is given a choice if she wants to call for help she will have to live with thedisfigured face or she has the choice to commit suicide by taking pills. And she chooses the latter.The crucifixion, the signs all over Kevin Spacey’s movies, Kevin Spacey’s movie.So, John Doe’s first appearance; we seehim at several points in the movie, but we fully see him for what or who he is in thefirst time as he surrenders himself, that again is big reversal in expectations.We expect our heroes to catch him; killer surrenders himself after five murders.He is covered in blood and later we realize whose blood it is.So, one reason that the movie was calledthe bleakest and the gloomiest film ever made, the reason was; I mean, this is the BBC interview,BBC review, where the critic commented, that is, by far this is the gloomiest movie we had ever watched.Now, what could be the reason for this? The movie offers us no hope.Generally, in a crime movie, in a thriller movie we feel there are heroes to take care of the world.We are safe because there are heroes out there, we, we are safe because there are forces oflaw who are there to take care of us. What does Seven do to these expectations?The killer is always a step ahead of the law. So, therefore, the film denies us any kind of comfort,there is no comfort in the movie because we know there is, there is no hope for us andthat comes on very strongly in the movie by the way, the killer is projected.So, Kevin Spacey surrendering himself, covered in the blood of someone he has just murdered.When does this scene happen?Student: Climax.The climax, yeah, when the killer makes the request thathe should be taken to, to a certain point to find the dead body, to find, there aretwo more dead bodies and he is asking us to, he leads us to that. And the heroes give in,that is also very interesting that a dreaded criminal has just been caught and the heroes succumb to his demands.Throughout the scene, throughout the car drive we see Brad in conversationwith Kevin Spacey and through this grid, of course, you know; Kevin Spacey being dangerouscriminal, you cannot thus keep him along with the hero, so there has to be some kind of barricade.But we also see Brad Pitt’s character through these barbed wires, not just KevinSpacey’s, but also both of them are trapped in their own sins. Brad Pitt may not be aware of that.So, this grid act as a very strong sign, a very strong index for telling us boththese men are now on par with each other. Morgan Freeman, on the other hand is alwayslooking away; he is free, literally free.Some people have also, now I do not know howmany of you paid attention to this aspect. See, usually serial killers are, if you taketheir statistic in the western world, more often than not, they are white man.So, far we have not had, have not had any record of women serial killer, women serial killer;maybe women murder once or twice, but serial killers not many are aware of.So, let me know if you are aware of one, but then generally, does not happen. Statistics also prove, thatmost of the time, at least nine out of ten times these are white man, so in ‘Seven’you do not have this. Now, what do these men, what are these men after?What is the pattern? I mean, you know,Jack the Ripper, white serial killer. who did he kill?So, there is the bias against the women of,so called, not so good morals. So, serial killers have apattern, they are usually, let us not called them insane people, but there is the strongsense of some injustice or strong sense of restoring some kind of a moral balance in the society.And how do they restore this moral balance? By eliminating certain unwanted people.Now, who are these unwanted people? Jack the Ripper killed prostitutes,you know women of this, and women with so called low morals should not be tolerated in our society.So, that is one pattern. What else, who do they kill?Who else do they kill?Student: Homeless.Homeless, homeless people, the very poor; squalid people of the earth,we do not want them around, they are killed one after another, gazed we do not want themaround, they should be killed. I mean, in literature also we have had several exampleswhere literary figures have been killed because of their ambiguous sexuality.Lorca for instance, Spanish poet, dramatist, he was gay and he was murdered by a fascist who did not wantsuch people to be around.People of color perhaps, we do not want people of certainrace, certain nationality around. So, there is a pattern. Is there are pattern in ‘Seven’?Student: Sinner, what he perceives.Sinners, only sinners but if you look, if you forget the sin element, he is quite democratic.There are three women, four men, all white and the killer himself is a white male.But then what about his sexuality? And I quote, a piece from the movie, the scenewhere he has just killed the wife, Tracy and this is what he tells Tracy’s husband asplayed by Brad Pitt; 'I tried to play husband, I tried to taste the life of a simple man, it did not work out'.Now, what could it mean, I try to play her husband and did not work out?Some kind of perhaps repressed homosexuality, perhaps some kind of sexual inadequacy andit did not work out. So, I took a souvenir her pretty head.Because, I envy your normal life, it seems that envy is my sin. So, I need to punish for that and whobetter than you to eliminate me.And therefore, he wants to be killed.Student: No, but he mentions envy.But not according to the cannons, according to the cannon envy is a sin; home sexualityis not mentioned, right, as the punishable sin. I am talking about the seven deadly sins, it is not there.It is somewhere, perhaps it is implicit in somewhere, but not very, very explicitly stated.Student: Or I may just mean that, she did not cooperate?Cannot we just mean that she did not cooperate when he try to.Could be anything, could be anything, therefore we are saying ambiguity about his sexuality.Could be he did not try,could be she did not cooperate, could be he could not, he could not; you know live upto the moment and therefore, he had to take out with him. Of course he wants to punishBrad Pitt, for what, which sin he is being punished for; wrath.And do you see elements of wrath throughout the movie?Where it is most highlighted? Where John Doe decides,this is the man I should be singling out for wrath?Students: Photographs.When he takes photographs of Victor; Victor we, we have been misled tothinking, into believing that Victor is the serial killer. And when there when the copsare on the scene, John Doe is there somewhere in the background trying to take picturesand Brad Pitt explodes on seeing him. That is the point where serial killer decides this is an ideal victim for him.So, all this clues, you know, look, you need to read, youneed to understand Seven backwards, at first go you will not understand all the enigmas,which are implicit there. Any comments, any questions?Student: The entire movie is dark and gloomy, but the final climax happens in very sunlight.Very open space, extremely open space.The movie actually begins in darkness and as the movie progresses it becomes lighterand lighter as far as camera work is concerned, but the tone of the movie becomes dark.It is a very dark movie as we have been talking about, although the final scenes do take placein open spaces and in extreme light.There was actually lot of controversy, lot of conflict regarding the climax of Seven.David Fincher, at one point actually decided,that he should go for a happy ending, you know, while the wife is being murdered; hearrives just in nick of time and save her, you know he is the hero after all, this is what we expect.It does not matter whether he is the Bollywood or Hollywood, you know,the hero has to be a hero. Spiderman is always arrives on the scene at right time, so thereforeBrad Pitt should also; and they actually thought about it. Who put his foot down?Brad Pitt, himself. He said I do not want this, you gave me the script with certain ending I stickto it because the entire movie leads towards that climax,it cannot be any other way; there cannot be a happy ending.Is John Doe a preacher?Yes, Somerset actually says at one point,that he is giving us a sermon; you can read through the clues thathe leaves behind, actually John Doe is giving us a sermon, and he is a preacher.And why do we call him preacher and why does he thinks of himself as the preacher?He sees himself as the moral voice of the society he lives in. He feels that someone has to stand up wherethe law has failed. So, he is the law enforcer in the society. And at one point heeven justifies all the killing, he says they were not good people. The greedy lawyer wasvillainous character, the woman who he kills for lust; he has his own reasons for killing that woman.So, it is not like he just killed in vain, he had reason to kill.His intolerance comes through. He identifies with the moral code of society. And which kind of society?A Christian society. So that’s very, when we are talking about the cultural code in Seven;unless you understand the moral code in a Christian society, much of the enigma,much of the codes which Seven talks about will be lost on us.And most importantly, he recognizes that like everyone elsehe too is the sinner and he needs to be punished.So, he is not just a random villainous character. He is the sinner, he recognizes that, he choosesa kind of death he should get; he chooses the kind of man who should give him that kind of death.So, as an example of cultural code, ‘Seven’takes us on a journey into moral and philosophical territory,debates over social responsibility and human nature.And the conflict is always between crimes against humanityand acts or sins against God; sins that offendGod, those are the seven sins.So, Kevin Spacey’s character refuses to see himself as an ordinary criminal.He is the law and enforcer, he is the moral voice in the movie; according tohim, he is attempting to bring some sort of moral stability in our lives, and thereforeso while, from the detective’s point of view there is a conflict because murder after all,whomever you murder it does not matter, murder is the sin, is the crime. But whathe says, what John Doe feels is that, he is punishing sins and therefore not committing crime.So, between the nature of sins and the nature of crime, there is, there is lies the conflict inside.Does, Mills kill him?Does he kill him?How does the movie end?He has taken away in a car.Who?Mills, Brad Pitt is taken away ina car, he has, we are told, that he killed Kevin Spacey.Morgan Freeman stops him from killing John Doe.Why does, do you remember the reason, why should not he kill?He does not want Kevin Spacey, now we are no longer talking about the crime of killing a person;he is no longer talking about the law, he is talking in Kevin Spacey’s language, donot give him the satisfaction. He is leading you on, he has been leading you on and hewants to do it, so do not do this. But then he does not again in the movie, while shootingthe movie there have been some, there has been some kind of controversy whether BradPitt should eventually kill Kevin Spacey or not, and they decided to, yes it should happen,because then crime you know, the seven murders have been taken care of,otherwise we will be one murder short.So, you have seen the movie, what has been your response to the movie?What kind of feelings are you left with when you watch Seven?Was it the first time you watched the movie?Yes, you did not expected, it it hits you absolutelyin the face and leaves you with the sense of hopelessness, and there is absolutely nohope for us; except perhaps if you look at the older, wiser, guy who just walks away.But but then, why, why is he still able to retain some sanity?Student: Seen a lot of things.He has seen lot of things yes, but still.The opening scene where we were talking about,so let me take back to the opening sequence. He has managed to put aside, exclude all theunpleasantness things, events of life from his own life.So, he wants certain control over his life and that is,some kind of defense mechanism at working in, which Brad Pitt lacks.So, that is the very important lesson that ‘Seven’ teaches you, the ability, the ability to let go.So, thank you very much