Perfectionist director David Fincher has been giving his thoughts on the idea that one filmmaker can fully control the creative process of movie-making.
If any director working today could credibly argue in favour of auteur theory, the notion that one filmmaker can mould the collaborative experience of filmmaking to perfectly fit their singular vision, it would most likely be David Fincher. After all, he’s renowned for his close eye for detail, his uncompromising style and his penchant for perfectionism, sometimes demanding 50 or 60 takes just to get a single shot.
Indeed, the true benchmark of a recognised auteur is arguably whether they get their name adapted into an adjective such as ‘Hitchcockian’ and with his uniquely recognisable style, ‘Fincher-esque’ is definitely a term that gets bandied about.
However, in an interview with Nev Pierce (via Collider), Fincher has rubbished the notion of the auteur, arguing that even for the most controlling director, it is impossible to exert the level of control required to fully control how a film turns out. He states:
“I think anybody who knows anything, knows trying to get the troops to all face the same direction is f*****g hard”, he argues. “And the notion that you’re going to be able to beautifully articulate for all of these different interests, educational backgrounds, generations, this entire group that’s separated by all these different personal experiences, and simply impart to them how you’d like to see it happen then sit back in your chair and watch it unfold…”
“As you well know, and as anybody who’s spent any time on a set knows, there’s a lot of sweat and swearing and trickery and manipulation, and you have to be equally good at blunt-force trauma as you are sculpting rice grains. It’s brain surgery, and interior house painting, and pouring a foundation, and child psychology. It’s all of those things happening simultaneously. It’s a very difficult thing for the uninitiated to imagine the kind of self-possessed douchebaggery that it takes to make it happen. And sometimes it happens by accident, and sometimes it happens by explicit fractal design. And sometimes somebody fucks up a line in the best possible way, and it changes the coverage and what that scene finally means”.
To illustrate his point – and it’s very much worth reading the article linked to find our his reasoning more – Fincher gives Scorsese’s Taxi Driver as an example, discussing how the improvisational nature of the iconic “are you talking to me?” scene proves the fallacy of auteur theory.
For Fincher – clearly a director who has an incredibly focused vision for every project he enters into – to argue that no director can describe a moment in enough clarity for an entire cast and crew to perfectly align their output to match that vision makes sense on a practical level. We’re pretty sure that Fincher’s thoughts won’t stop film critics declaring him as an auteur though, even if himself gives the idea short shrift.
You can catch Fincher’s latest film, Mank, on Netflix right now. It’s Fincher-esque.
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