COMPARE AND CONTRAST “SEVEN” with “MEMENTO”
For my final essay, I have decided to compare and contrast David Fincher’s “SE7EN” with Christopher Nolan’s “MEMENTO,” as these are two of my favorite movies I have viewed this year. Se7en is the story of two detectives, a rookie and a veteran, as they hunt a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as his M.O.(modus operandi). Gluttony, greed, sloth, envy, wrath, pride, and lust are the seven deadly sins that the enigmatic serial killer is punishing with unimaginable cruelty and calculation. Memento is the story of a man, suffering from short-term memory loss, who uses a Polaroid, notes, and self made tattoos to hunt for the man who killed his wife. Throughout this essay, I will detail a comparison of these movies in terms of genre, theme, and elements of form and technique, and how these similarities invoke a very similar affect on the audience.
Both Memento and Se7en fit the genre of a drama-crime mystery. Both movies leave the viewer straining and watching each scene, searching for the truth. Each movie is revealed, piece by piece, although in opposite format, while the audience waits for the clues to unravel the mystery. Each movie is a unique puzzle, and one that cannot be solved until the final moments of the movie. In Memento, you are required to scrutinize the film, unfolding backwards in time, trying to discover the motivations behind each character’s actions, later in time. In Se7en, this is done by discovering and developing the seven deadly sins while the viewer is desperately waiting for the final two to be revealed.
Each movie also ends in a final “trick play,” which is intended to shock the audience. In Memento, Leonard constantly believes, as he stated, “I have to believe in a world outside my own mind. I have to believe that my actions have meaning, even if I don’t remember them.” As we follow Leonard’s quest, the audience believes in this truth until the final “trick play” that causes the viewer to lose faith in this premise. It jolts the viewer as they realize that they, alongwith Leonard, have been manipulated and deceived. In Se7en, the final “trick play” occurs as Detective Mill’s wife’s head arrives in a box, revealing that the final two deadly sins are actually John Doe and Mills. For these reasons, these two movies are clearly very similar in their genre, although the difference between these two would be that Se7en is also somewhat of a thriller because it has a lot of gore and graphic means of death.
In terms of theme, there are several common denominators between the two movies. There is most definitely a common “Good vs. Evil” theme present in both films. Se7en shows a world with little values, destroyed by its own sins. The killer, who hates this world, feels that it is his mission in life to expose the sins of the world. In both movies, however, decent men ultimately pay a price. Both films show the price these men pay when they fight evil. It is somewhat unsettling that the rule book of life gets thrown completely out the window when fighting evil. For Leonard, he was willing to set himself up to kill Teddy out of anger for stripping away his sense of purpose. By making Teddy his “John G.,” Leonard becomes somewhat of a villain. True, Teddy was guilty of a few of his own “deadly sins.” He was a corrupt cop, guilty of greed, manipulation, and selfishness, but he wasn’t John G., and he really didn’t deserve to die. Similarly, Detective Mills, in Se7en, also paid the price while fighting evil. His own character flaws (which were always in sharp contrast of Detective Somerset) allowed Mills to also fall from protagonist to villain. At the sight of his pregnant wife’s head in the box, he became the final deadly sin: “wrath.” Overall, both movies leave the audience examining the grey area between good and evil and questioning your own morality....