Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Seven begins as William Somerset prepares to quit his job. Somerset is an educated and experienced detective, but is also jaded by years in a city that’s oppressive, miserable and apparently filled with violent crime.
The latest case he’s called to, the murder of a grotesquely obese man, is apparently no different. But Somerset is also partnered with another detective, David Mills, to solve this one. Mills is the complete opposite – young, brash and hot-tempered – but he’s a newcomer to the city and idealistic.
The discovery of the fat man’s corpse sets the tone of the film. It happens while rain falls from a grey sky, though the interior of the man’s house is even darker and grimier. Roaches scurry away from the plates of food. Somerset and Mills discover that the man’s murderer forced him to eat (and eat, and eat) at gunpoint until he died, and then scrawled a single word – GLUTTONY – on the wall. Next comes the murder of a lawyer forced to cut a pound of flesh off his own body, with the word GREED printed in blood nearby.
It looks as though they have a serial killer on their hands.
Somerset soon realizes that the killer – while apparently insane – is also extremely intelligent and erudite, which may give them their only chance to track him down. But that’s one of the best things about this film: the killer is by no means incompetent either. Even when he’s surprised, he gets the upper hand. What’s happening always seems to be in his plan, and he almost never appears angry or disconcerted.
He doesn’t have a name, by the way. That’s something he has in common with all but two of his victims, and it increases the bleak horror of the film. The victim could be anyone, perhaps even someone you know, and the killer is as anonymous after capture as before.
As well as providing brilliant characterization, the film plays its theme like a violin. The events take place in seven days, and the countdown to the last is mirrored by the metronome Somerset uses to provide white noise when he’s sleeping – but which gives the impression that time is running out. And I love the fact that Somerset reads the classics to find out about Dante’s Inferno while Mills picks the Cliff Notes.
Somerset: Of Human Bondage…
Mills : Bondage?
Somerset : Not what you’re thinking.
Finally, the ending is a shocking but entirely believable twist. I couldn’t look away from the screen as I watched it. And yet the film’s final line is one of hope, and a refusal to give up. As long as the viewer doesn’t mind foul language, blood and some horrific moments, I’d recommend it. A lot.
On a personal note, this film made me fascinated by the seven deadly sins, to the point where I named roads after them in one of my manuscripts. So, of the seven – Gula, Avaritia, Acedia, Luxuria, Superbia, Invidia and Ira, to give them their Latin names – which one is your greatest vice?
I’d have to admit to Pride.