Friday, October 26, 2012

It's Never Going Away

This movie is a hefty chunk of meat. It was made in 1995, but it’s held up and will probably continue to hold up as one of the scariest crime movies ever made. But why is it timeless? Well, even though the characters talk on phones with cords and the cars resemble artifacts from a film noir, the ambiguity of the story’s details makes the movie universal and timeless.

The city, for instance, takes on the qualities of Superman’s Metropolis. It’s never given a name, and it hold ties to most cities in the United States. I always assumed it was Philadelphia, but arguments could be made that it’s New York or LA. I’ve read it might be Seattle because of the rain, but it doesn’t usually rain hard like that in Seattle, and the fields at the end indicated it’s a midwestern town. A piece of trivia found on IMDB suggests a book spine only seen in the fullscreen version hints that the city is supposed to be Omaha. That makes sense with the fields, but Omaha doesn’t have such dense, aged urban areas. The point the indecisive location makes is that the vile characteristics that corrupt humanity are everywhere.

Details relating to John Doe are scarce, too. Obviously, he has no name. He has money, but the origin of that money is never declared. He is educated, but the movie never clarifies what schools he might have attended or what jobs he’s held. He cuts his fingers so he doesn’t leave prints. He is everyone and yet no one at all. John Doe is a placeholder for the evil and corruption within society, a wicked conglomeration made into a man. Again referencing a piece of trivia on IMDB, statements have been made claiming a version of the script ended the movie in a church after Somerset learns John Doe was abused by a priest. This detail would have ruined the universal nature of the movie; not knowing why John Doe became the man he is forces viewers to confront the notion that there’s inexplicable evil in the world.

The infamous ending also adds to the enduring nature of the film. While watching, I wondered what the film would be like if Somerset killed John Doe, and I’ve since read that was a consideration for the end of the movie. That version would have worked as an ending because Somerset became a protector of Mills, and it would be martyr-like for him to take the crime on his shoulders instead of allowing Mills to take that burden. But that would have been a happy ending and clashed with the theme of the movie. The unwavering message this movie sends through its duration is that sins are unrelenting and everywhere--no one can escape. It’s a hopeless message; however, this message means the only ending that really works is what the movie came to theaters with. Sin will never go away or be beaten, and when viewers watch this movie decades from now, they’ll related to that same timeless plight.

Se7en is one of the most disturbing films I’ve seen. It transcends the crime and mystery genres and is elevated to higher levels. It’s horror at its heart, but it’s more than just a psychological drama or suspense. This movie holds the essence of what’s wrong with humanity in a way I’ve only seen managed by a handful of other films. In short, it rocks.


  1. I didn't think about the setting and the lack of description. I guess I just assumed it to be either NYC or Chicago do to the architecture and the library scene. Good point there.

    I'm not sure if Somerset shooting John Doe would have worked. It just wouldn't fit his character. He is constantly at odds with Mills worldview along with his own. He never has a realization that would change his outlook to match Mills, which would be needed for him to act any differently. Plus, he knows that even if he shoots John, that is as much wrath as it is if Mills does it. So he has to try and stop Mills just so John doesn't win.

  2. The city reminded me of the movie "Dark City."