Bret Easton Ellis on David Fincher’s Film Zodiac

This weekend, Twitter followers of novelist Bret Easton Ellis were treated to BEE’s views on the films of director David Fincher, with particular consideration paid to Fincher’s overlooked (by audiences, at least) 2007 film Zodiac. I liked Ellis’s commentary, not just because I think he’s spot on here, but also because he points out why so many people might not have liked (or, dare I say “got”) Zodiac on first viewing: the movie was mismarketed. Here’s BEE—

In my original review of Zodiac, I pointed to my own early misunderstanding of what the film was—

When Zodiac came out last year, I prejudicially–and wrongly–assumed that the film, the tale of the infamous Zodiac killer who menaced California in the late sixties and early seventies, would be a moody character study, all ominous texture, smoggy chase scenes, and desperate anger à la Fincher’s 1995 thriller, Se7en (that movie where Gwyneth Paltrow’s head gets chopped off), or even worse, Fincher’s awful 1997 effort The Game. Most Hollywood suspense films–Fincher’s included–propel themselves on chase sequences, meaningless yelling, and overstated light and music queues that seem to scream “this is the part where you feel tense.” Zodiac, however, eschews all of these often vacuous tropes in favor of simply telling a story.

Zodiac is a methodical, investigative procedural about truth, a film that looks at what happens when we try to put order to disorder, when we try to give narrative to life’s loose ends—when we try to understand radically stochastic violence. In retrospect, it seems to me that Fincher’s work here is akin to Roberto Bolaño in some ways, and I think that if people went into it understanding that it was going to be a meditation on truth, and not, say, a cops and robbers thriller, they might appreciate it more (for what it’s worth, several people wrote in on my review to tell me how wrong I was about what I liked about the film. I think, like Ellis, they should give it another shot).

4 thoughts on “Bret Easton Ellis on David Fincher’s Film Zodiac”

  1. I feel like the most haunting aspect of this film (and the actual true story) happens in the end titles: the part where it says that Arthur Lee Allen was proven NOT to be the Zodiac through DNA testing of the saliva on the envelope. So no matter how much these guys tried to impose meaning on the crimes they still could have been arriving at the wrong conclusion. But of course Arthur Lee Allen was a scary dude, and so was that movie poster guy, and so are all the Zodiac suspects. People say it is somehow how disappointing that they don’t catch the guy at the end, but to me it is so much scarier that you examine all the facts and walk away with the conclusion that there are like a dozen guys that all COULD have been the killer, and even then maybe none of them are. Serial Killer movies always suggest that the crimes are so grim and disturbing they could only be the work of one sick individual, but it’s so much crazier to realize how many people out there are capable of the same anti-social behavior. And maybe none of them ever killed anybody at all, or maybe they did and we might never know “the truth”.


    1. To me this (this “this” refers to your insightful dissection) is why 2666is such a horrifying read. If you sift through negative reviews on places like Amazon, you’ll find people actually decrying that the “real killer” was never found!


      1. Oh man it’s all just stacking up against me isn’t it? I’m thinking that I make 2666 my first book of the new year. It somehow doesn’t seem like a christmas novel to me.


  2. The Game= awful?

    Great performance by Michael Douglas.
    Incredible depiction of a control freak losing all control, then somehow managing to regain control, then learning that his regaining control was merely illusory.

    Might not be your cup of tea, I can appreciate that, but “awful”??/




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