The credit sequence to Se7en has long been ingrained on my mind; I was wily enough to sneak into an ‘18’ at a tender age, but too naïve to know that you don’t sit in the front row. It was and still is a visual and aural assault, whether you’re sitting too close to the screen or not.
Images flash by, only slightly lengthier than the subliminal: journals are scrawled into alongside photographs of malformed hands and head trauma patients, whilst medical papers on pregnancy and transsexual profiling are black-lighted. Flitting between haunted sepia and high contrast monochrome, the audience is taken somewhere between noir and horror, but unsure as to how it all fits together. What is for sure, though, are the connotations of a psyché that is both disjointed yet disciplined; precise yet perverse.
It’s on completing the film that we find that all the pieces matter. The killer’s hair clippers reference his off-the-shelf-psycho look, whilst his mutilated finger tips suggest he took garlic slicing inspiration from Goodfellas‘ Paulie Cicero. The onscreen credits implicate those involved as accomplices rather than collaborators; names appear to be scratched into the celluloid with a compass, whilst some are typed and smudged and retyped. Kevin Spacey as the pious John Doe of course, is fittingly and famously omitted.
The soundtrack doesn’t absolve the audience either. A barely recognizable reworking of Nine Inch Nails’ Closer is audibly dissected and rearranged, which is juxtaposed with the visual systemising of film strips, medical stills and ultrasounds. The murderous sonic subtext is also there for the initiated: Closer was recorded in the L.A. house in which Sharon Tate was murdered by the Manson family. Make out music, it is not. The only lyric permitted to seep through the noise is the climactic, “you bring me closer to God” which foreshadows not only the religious imagery of the seven deadly sins, Divine Comedy, and Paradise Lost, but of John Doe’s own lofty aspirations.
If you’ve yet to experience it, I’m truly envious.