I should say up front that there may be spoilers for The Exorcist in this review.

“How do you go about getting an exorcism?”

Based on a novel by William Peter Blatty, William Friedkin’s 1973 film The Exorcist has become one of the most celebrated horror films of all time, and one of very few films of the genre to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The Exorcist is a profoundly horrifying, yet quietly disturbing film. Friedkin – presumably buoyed from the success of his previous film, The French Connection – delays his action until, at least, a quarter of the film has passed, instead choosing to create a set of well-rounded, immediately likable characters, using this thirty-or-so minutes to give them a proper, formal introduction.

The film’s two lead characters, mother and daughter Chris and Regan MacNeil, have a relationship that is to be envied – they are very close, playful; the perfect family, even if Regan’s father doesn’t seem to be around anymore. An altogether different background befalls Father Karras, a catholic priest who, due to the failing health of his fragile mother, is slowly losing faith in his religion.

We are invited to grow attached to both sets of characters for very different, yet equally effective reasons; the former because the relationship between mother and daughter is so strong; the latter because we’re sympathetic to the disillusioned priest’s suffering. The characters of the film are fleshed out to such an extent that we immediately care about them, and Friedkin does this for a reason; it gives him something to take advantage of.

Once Regan is possessed by “the devil” the film takes the guise of a mystery thriller. Something has caused the once happy, joyful young girl to become grotesque and scurrilous. It can’t be a medical issue: a team of doctors rule this out after exhausting a series of seemingly painful examinations. It’s not a psychiatric issue either: again, this is ruled out by a team of professionals. So what could it be?

After one of the psychiatrists suggests that, as a last resort, she try an exorcism to help her daughter – not as a religious practice but a form of shock therapy – Chris consults with Father Karras about the possibility that Regan may be possessed by an evil spirit. Following much deliberation and further psychiatric examination, Karras decides that an exorcism may be the best course of action; the young girl’s condition is getting worse. Enlisting the help of Father Merrin, a priest experienced in the practice of exorcisms, the two perform the procedure.

Friedkin’s creation of atmosphere and sheer terror are not rooted in the appearance of Regan – whilst her appearance does drastically change, it’s treated as an indication of her ever-deteriorating condition rather than a device to scare the audience – but instead in the horror of her disturbing, psychological transformation. Regan certainly isn’t the happy girl she was at the beginning of the film; in fact, she’s quite the opposite.

This idea branches out into the other characters we spend time with: Chris MacNeil, once a happy, charismatic actress, is left a broken woman at the sight of her daughter’s involuntary actions – including, in one famous scene, masturbating with a crucifix whilst shouting “fuck me” to terrified onlookers – whilst Father Karras, after “absorbing” the devil from Regan and proving that his faith has been reaffirmed, jumps from an upstairs window to his gruesome death; a selfless attempt at destroying the devil for good.

The time Friedkin takes to introduce the audience to his characters goes a long way to perfecting the horror of the film. Rather than watching these horrific events take place amongst strangers, we feel as if we know them, and, as a result, we share their pain. The true horror of The Exorcist lies away from its head-turning, crucifix-masturbating and pea-soup vomiting, but in its devastating portrayal of a family in crisis: Friedkin asks the poignant question: what would you do if someone you love was possessed by the devil?

On viewing this, his most disturbing film, the answer doesn’t bear thinking about.

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I should say up front that there may be spoilers for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in this review.

“If I have anymore fun today, I don’t think I’m gonna take it”

An evolution of the 60’s exploitation films of Russ Meyer and Roger Corman, Tobe Hooper’s 1974 film The Texas Chain Saw Massacre caused something of a renaissance within the horror genre. The film industry hadn’t seen anything quite as forward thinking as Hooper’s masterpiece for many years, and the film is still regarded as one of the best, most terrifying horror films ever made.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre proceeds to create an atmosphere of dread with its lingering opening shot: a sun-drenched decomposed corpse. The leering, voyeuristic way Hooper shoots this horrific image is reminiscent of the way Russ Meyer shoots the three lead women in his 1965 film, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. But whilst Meyer’s own masterpiece is a film that revels in its hyper-sexualised lead characters, Hooper’s is one that revels in its own quiet brutality.

Carrying the mood of its opening moments, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre places us with a group of friends, probably in their late teen and early twenties, who are visiting the house in which two of their number, brother and sister Franklin and Sally – the former of which is wheelchair bound – spent their summers as children. Everything seems innocent enough, but we just can’t shake the atmosphere of the beginning; something is going to happen to these kids, it’s just a matter of when.

After meeting several oddball characters on their travels – specifically a drunken man in a graveyard, a crazy hitchhiker and a strangely unhelpful gas station attendant – the group finally make it to their destination. Hooper’s voyeuristic camera makes a return as the friends start to explore the house and its grounds; the camera, hiding in the distant grass, follows their movements. They’re being watched.

The way Hooper shoots the film is remarkable; it’s incredibly artistic for a horror film set in the barren wastelands of Texas. Hooper makes his cast look beautiful – specifically the women, another trait carried over from exploitation cinema – amongst desolate houses and overgrown cornfields, through a combination of low angles, complimentary lighting and lingering close-ups.

It doesn’t matter how nice you can make the world look, it’s still impossible to hide the horrors that lurk within it. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is, first and foremost, a horror film, and, even though it’s arguably one of the prettiest, it’s also one of the most terrifying, and the danger that lurk within its world are certainly there to be feared.

Hooper engineers his scares very carefully; there is very little build up and the gruesome events of the film seem to happen almost at random. You know something is going to happen when a character is walking alone into a sinister house, or walking in the woods in the middle of the night, but there is no music to announce that a threat is near and no false alarms to lull the audience into a sense of security. There are simply actions and consequences, and the film is all the better for it.

Whilst The Texas Chain Saw Massacre relies on its carefully constructed atmosphere for the majority of its scares, the final third of the film goes in a completely different direction. The quiet, foreboding atmosphere of the first two thirds is pushed to one side in favour of an all out sensory assault.

With all her friends (and brother) killed, Sally has to evade capture by Leatherface, the chainsaw wielding murderer who has picked off her companions. After what feels like an age of running and screaming, she finds solace with the local gas station attendant, who, after offering to help the girl, is revealed to be involved with Leatherface and his often comically dysfunctional family of deformed murderers.

After escaping for a second time by jumping out of a window of the murderous family’s house, Sally, more successfully, finds solace in the back of a pick up truck and, despite the efforts of Leatherface, manages to escape. A mixture of terror and elation are seen in her blood-strewn face whilst the chainsaw wielding murderer is left alone in the road as the truck drives away, frustrated in his defeat, almost dancing as he angrily spins around in increasingly frantic circles, still brandishing his chainsaw.

The sun rises behind him; a brand new day for Leatherface; a brand new world for Sally.

The most haunting final moments of a horror film, and the most terrifying film ever made, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has lived on despite being banned numerous times. Is this an indication of its putrid content or a testament to its ability to so drastically affect? It doesn’t really matter either way, and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is undoubtedly a classic of the horror genre, and one that still remains one of the best horror films ever made.

I should say up front that there may be spoilers for A Nightmare on Elm Street in this review.

“I thought it was just another nightmare, like the one I had the night before. There was… there was this guy; he had knives for fingers.”

Wes Craven’s 1984 film A Nightmare on Elm Street saw the birth of one of the most terrifying creatures in the history of cinema. Freddy Krueger, the ghost of a child killer complete with striped jumper, brown fedora and a glove with knives for fingers, was immediately an iconic figure of the horror genre, appearing in eight subsequent films, a television series and a number of comic books. But what was it about the character of Freddy Krueger that struck such a chord with film goers?

It was, almost certainly, the fears that he embodied in the aforementioned A Nightmare on Elm Street, a classic of the golden age of horror cinema, the 70’s and 80’s: A threat beyond that of anything that had come before. Yes, monsters like Frankenstein, Dracula and Leatherface were a potent danger in their respective films, but none of them could do what Freddy could. He attacked his victims when they were at their most vulnerable; in their dreams, which is something we can all relate to.

The beauty of A Nightmare on Elm Street comes from, for want of a better word, its gimmick; Freddy attacks his victims in their dreams. The requirement to the story of both the real world and the dream world creates an interesting dichotomy; how do you differentiate between the two? The main method Craven employs in order to do this is colour; in the dream world colour is vividly realised, with the reds and the greens, the colours of Freddy’s iconic jumper, nearly jumping out of the screen. Switch black to the real world and you’re met with docile blues and virginal whites, the colours of a relative safe zone; after all, anything can happen in a dream. If you’re not sleeping, nothing can hurt you.

This is another element Craven has license to explore. If there are no rules in a dream world, what can possibly happen within its extensive boundaries? His use of extraordinary set pieces, ranging from the elongated arms of Freddy reaching wall-to-wall in an alleyway to the fountain of blood emanating from Glen’s bed following his gory death, are brutally fantastic. Every set piece is used to great effect, creating both genuine scares and jaw-dropping moments of disturbing beauty.

With its brilliantly scary premise, elaborate set pieces and iconic antagonist, A Nightmare on Elm Street is a truly terrifying experience and a work of insane genius. Craven knew exactly when to hold back, exactly when to strike and exactly when to explain, which, with the current rulebook of the horror genre placing loud noises above story, is a welcome reminder that there was a time when horror films were both genuinely frightening and wonderfully inventive.

Wes Craven was a master of horror cinema and A Nightmare on Elm Street is, and always will be, his masterpiece.

I should say up front that there are spoilers for Vertigo in this review.

Judy: “If I let you change me, will that do it? If I do what you tell me, will you love me?”

It’s a widely known fact that, upon its initial release, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) was not exactly well received, with many people concerned about the labyrinthine plot structure and the fact that the film’s villain – if you could call him that – is barely seen, let alone given any motives or back story. Upon re-evaluation, many critics acknowledged that they were wrong to dismiss Vertigo, and it is now rightly considered to be one of Hitchcock’s greatest films.

Vertigo tells the story of John “Scottie” Ferguson (James Stewart), an acrophobic ex-detective whose crippling fear of heights results in the death of a colleague and forces him into early retirement. Following his retirement, Scottie is asked by an old acquaintance, Gavin Elster, to follow his wife, Madeleine (Kim Novak), whose trance-like behaviour is becoming a cause for concern, with her having no memory of driving 90 miles in one afternoon and no idea how she spent the time.

The first half of Vertigo tells of Scottie delving deeper into the mystery of Madeleine’s behaviour and, following an apparent attempt at her own life, his feelings for the young woman starting to emerge – with the two eventually entering into a strange, ambiguous relationship. It’s a doomed love, however, as her erratic behaviour and obsession with a long-deceased woman (who we are later informed is her great-grandmother, a fact she is oddly unaware of) ultimately lead her to another, more successful suicide attempt.

Hitchcock was a clever man. He realised that this supernatural tale of spiritual possession could only go so far and, rather than drag the story out, he wraps it up after 70 minutes, only to begin a new, seemingly unrelated story following a man’s inability to get over a past love. We see Scottie, some time after Madeleine’s death, plagued by visions of his lost love and seeing her in the places the two used to visit: restaurants, shops, galleries. When he meets Judy, a girl who is the spitting image of Madeleine, he pursues her, hoping to reclaim a part of what he so tragically lost.

This is where Hitchcock and his screenwriter, Samuel A. Taylor, come into their own; they introduce the idea that Madeleine was murdered by her husband, Gavin Elster, with Judy, her doppelgänger, acting as if she were his wife to lure Scottie into testifying that her death was an accident (due to her erratic, suicidal behaviour), therefore allowing the murderer to get away with it. This would have been the perfect plan – and to an extent it was, Elster got away scot-free; a unique occurrence in Hitchcock’s work – if Judy hadn’t fallen in love with Scottie during their brief encounters.

What follows is amongst the most heartbreaking and unsettling final thirds in cinema. Scottie, still distraught at the loss of Madeleine, grooms Judy to look the same as his lost love, down to her hair colour, hair style and dress sense. He cannot let go of the past, and the chance encounter with Judy only fuels his obsession with her further. Tragically, Judy, albeit reluctantly, goes along with his disturbing plan because she loves him, uttering the film’s most tragic lines: If I let you change me, will that do it? If I do what you tell me, will you love me?”.

This unhealthy relationship is epitomised in the film’s most impressive scene: Upon returning from having her hair dyed blonde to match Madeleine’s, Judy is asked by Scottie to style it in the same way as his former love. She leaves to do this; Scottie is left to wait nervously; he sits down, hears the bathroom door open and looks round. The music swells; The room is basked in an ethereal green glow; Judy enters as Madeleine, down to the hair style and clothing, whilst Scottie looks on, a broken man. The two move closer to each other; Scottie has finally reassembled his dream girl; Judy has finally won the heart of the man she loves. The two embrace and the camera spirals round them with the background flitting between the moments shared with Madeleine and the apartment in which he is with Judy. 

Hitchcock presents this moment as a romance but, in reality, it’s almost the exact opposite; Scottie’s romantic actions are those of a broken man made incapable of such emotions as love, whilst Judy’s reciprocation is the act of a broken-hearted woman determined to make the man she loves love her in return. It’s a relationship doomed from the start, but they’re so blindly focused on their own agendas that they cannot see the big picture: Judy was, at least, partly responsible for the death of Madeleine, even if it was simply a character she was playing. Once Scottie finds out – and he does, with terrible consequences – the relationship will break, and both parties will be left desolate, defeated and alone, all the worse for playing out their mutually destructive fantasies.

Vertigo is not only one of Hitchcock’s greatest films, but his one true masterpiece. Never in his career did he manage to tap into the emotional intricacies of love and loss as well as he did here, and, as a result, Vertigo is certainly a film that deserves to be taken seriously by critics and audiences alike. There simply is nothing quite like it.

I should say up front that there are spoilers for Belle de Jour in this review.

“Would you like to be called “Belle de Jour”?”

“Belle de Jour?”

“Since you only come in the afternoons.”

The hyper-sexual mind of a sexually repressed young woman, Belle de Jour (1967) is the quintessential work of master director Luis Buñuel, a filmmaker most commonly known for his collaborations with surrealist painter Salvador Dali – notably Un Chien Andalou (1929) and L’Age D’Or (1930).

Séverine – played by Catherine Deneuve, who delivers arguably her greatest performance to date, equalled only by her work in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), Repulsion (1965) and Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967) – is the beautiful wife of a successful doctor, but her repressed, often sadomasochistic, sexual fantasies are a personal source of shame and, as a result, she cannot trust herself to sleep with him.

After a male friend of her husband introduces her to the idea of prostitution, by means of a sexually braggadocio conversation engineered to impress her, Séverine believes that she has finally found the means in which to bring even her most disturbing fantasies to life without, in her mind, alarming her husband.

Buñuel is happy to portray both Séverine’s fantasies – with his includion of detailed vignettes exploring her intensely sexual daydreams – as well as the implications of her sexual liberation; is it wrong to want to explore your sexual fantasies? No. Is it wrong to do this outside of a marriage? Yes. Will there be a cost? Almost certainly.

Eventually, her decadent forays into sexual fulfilment do come at a price, with one of her clients, a Parisian gangster complete with gold teeth, falling dangerously in love with her, resulting in not only his death, but the paralysis and blindness of her husband, an innocent in the madness of Séverine’s life.

But it’s the film’s deliberately ambiguous, possibly cyclical ending that’s most impressive. Is this the end of Séverine’s sexual exploration or is it just the beginning? Or is it the start of something else entirely? Allegedly, not even Buñuel knew for sure, but that’s the beauty of this, his most majestic beast; nothing is ever quite as it seems, and Belle de Jour is all the better for it.

I should say up front that there are spoilers for Lost in Translation, In The Mood For Love and Chungking Express in this review.

Bob: What do you do?

Charlotte: I’m not sure yet, actually.

During her acceptance speech at the Academy Awards, Sofia Coppola mentioned a small number of filmmakers whose work inspired her whilst writing the screenplay for Lost In Translation: Michaelangelo Antonioni, Bob Fosse and Jean-Luc Godard were amongst them, but, upon viewing the film for the first time, the name Coppola said that truly stands out is Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai. Whilst Wong Kar-Wai may be regarded as less of a cinematic master than at least two of the other filmmakers cited by Coppola, his influence on Lost in Translation is certainly the most profound of all of them.

The idea of being lost in your life is a theme that Coppola likes to explore: The Virgin Suicides, Coppola’s debut film, ponders heavily on lost youth; both the five female characters and the community that’s left to deal with their actions. Marie Antoinette is similarly inclined, focusing on the empty life of an upper class girl who is old before her time. With her latest film, Somewhere, she again follows this trend, with a gaze held firmly upon the boredom and mundanity of the lives of the upper classes. All of these films are undeniably worth watching, but Coppola has never bettered her work on Lost in Translation.

The relation between Coppola’s masterpiece and the work of Wong Kar-Wai does not span his whole filmography, but with his two most famous works: Chungking Express and In The Mood For Love. The painfully abrupt romance between the two leads, Bob and Charlotte, in Lost in Translation is surely a nod to the devastating, and ultimately impossible, love between Su Li-Zhen and Chow Mo-Wan in In The Mood For Love (itself a film closely aligned – if unintentionally – with David Lean’s 1945 classic Brief Encounter).

In Wong Kar-Wai’s film, we are invited to follow two characters in 1960’s Hong Kong who suspect their respective partners are having an affair with each other, and how this infidelity leads the two of them to become close themselves. Whilst this doesn’t happen exactly like this in Lost in Translation, both protagonists are torn between their feelings for each other and their current, stagnating marriages, and both eventually succumb to these feelings – most notably, their kiss.

The extent of both romances is played out with seemingly menial events: Lost in Translation sees its two faux-lovers singing karaoke, crashing parties and running through Tokyo’s backstreets hand in hand; In The Mood For Love sees its two faux-lovers eating together, working on a martial arts story for a newspaper together and re-enacting what they think their partners would say to each other during their affair, in a surreal, disconcerting role-play exercise.

Both films also show the culmination of their romantic arcs through one final meeting, where a whispered message is spoken, unheard to the audience. In The Mood For Love’s ending sees Chow Mo-Wan (played by Tony Leung) whispering a message into a hole in a wall and covering it with mud. This is identical to a scene earlier in the film, involving Mr Chow suggesting that to hide a secret, you have to find a hollowed out tree, whisper your secret into the hollow and cover it with mud so it doesn’t escape. This seems to suggest that Mr Chow has a secret, which makes for a very interesting final moment that I will not spoil here.

On the other hand, Lost in Translation finishes with Bob, having already left his hotel in Tokyo to fly back to America, seeing Charlotte, wearing his jacket, in a crowded street. He chases after her and, during their initial embrace, whispers something in her ear that, again, is left intentionally indecipherable to the audience. If we heard the message (and avid film fans have since made this possible by enhancing the volume of the scene) the power of the scene would dissipate, but because of the ambiguity of the goodbye, we are left with a poignant reminder of what could’ve been.

Whilst the similarities between Lost in Translation and In The Mood For Love are more widely recognised by film critics and by the director herself, Coppola seems to have looked at Wong Kar-Wai’s breathtaking film, Chungking Express, for influence as well. Chungking Express is a film split into two parts that are drawn together by a snack bar, that features in both stories. The first story follows a policeman who is getting over the end of a long-term relationship, and the second is, more importantly (at least in this case), a story of a young girl’s infatuation with an older man.

The first segment of Chungking Express seems to have little in common with Coppola’s film, but the second seems to be the inspiration for Charlotte’s bond with Bob, a balding, middle-aged man in Lost in Translation. Whilst she doesn’t steal his keys, let herself into his apartment, clean it and surreptitiously buy him a goldfish (like in Chungking Express), she is certainly enamoured with him.

She’s bored with her marriage to an overworked photographer and, even when he is around, she doesn’t like spending time with him or his friends (especially the character of Kelly, a young, idiotic actress who Charlotte immediately despises – it has been said that this character was based on Cameron Diaz, whose friendship with Coppola’s then husband, filmmaker Spike Jonze, caused great strain on their marriage).

She would be much happier spending time absorbing the culture of Tokyo than talking about anorexia, dogs and Keanu Reeves’ love of karate. She just wants someone to notice her, which is where Bob comes in. He is equally bored – much like Tony Leung’s police officer in Chungking Express – with his life, and he craves something, or someone, to break the mundanity; Charlotte provides that.

Their relationship is built from there and, no matter how much they both try to deny it, there are feelings there. The difference is that Chungking Express is about to frustrations of one person ignoring the advances of another, and then being ignored themselves, whilst Lost in Translation is more of a forbidden love that is too strong to ignore, much like In The Mood For Love.

While there are undoubtedly similarities between the films of Wong Kar-Wai, it would be unfair of me to judge Lost in Translation on them. Not only is it a truly great film, but it marked Bill Murray’s transition from stalwart of the comedy scene to an icon of independent cinema, as well as the arrival of eighteen year old Scarlett Johansson as a major Hollywood starlet. And from a filmmaking standpoint, Sofia Coppola proved that she’s not just riding the coattails of her father, Francis Ford Coppola, one of the most celebrated American directors of all time, but she’s hugely talented filmmaker in her own right.

There’s something quite enchanting about Lost in Translation that allows it to transcend its basic premise of a bored, disillusioned actor working on whiskey commercials in Tokyo, which allows it to become one of the great American films of the past decade, and one that could sit very comfortably with the films of Coppola’s influencers.

I should say up front that there are spoilers for The Social Network in this review.

The anti social nature of social networking is one of the great ironies of our time. How social can a person be whilst sitting alone behind a computer, talking to other people sitting alone behind computers? It’s true that these people are conversing and yes, these people are, by definition, being sociable, but the lazy, passive nature in which they do so can only be regarded as exactly the opposite.

It’s ironic, then, that David Fincher’s The Social Network, the semi-fictional representation of the creation of Facebook, one the catalysts for this sudden anti-social change, suggests that its creator, Mark Zuckerberg, was himself hugely anti-social, and, with this study of one of the world’s youngest billionaires, David Fincher has crafted not only his greatest film, but one of the defining films of the 21st century so far.

Whilst it may seem hyperbolic to say such a thing eleven years into the century, it’s a rare thing to see a film so perfectly capture the time in which it was made; people are becoming symbiotically attached to their computers. But the thing about The Social Network is that it is far more than a biopic of Mark Zuckerberg. Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay is far more interested in the characters involved. There are very few scenes of computer nerds being computer nerds. Instead, we are shown flawed characters grappling with flawed characters, and the results are brutal and, at times, near-Shakespearean (now that is hyperbolic).

Take a look at the film’s most flawed character, Mark Zuckerberg. The creator of Facebook and, arguably, the tragic hero of The Social Network, Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) is something of a loner. From the film’s opening scene we are told many things about him. He is supremely intelligent (he got full marks on his college admission exam) and he certainly knows it. His intellectual arrogance translates to a fully bloated ego, especially towards his girlfriend, Erica Albright, played by Rooney Mara in a small but impressive role. He feels that he is intelectually superior to her; he goes to Harvard, one of the best, most prestigious schools in the world, and she goes to Boston University, a non-Ivy League school with far less prestige than Harvard. He demonstrates this by patronising her, saying that if he gets into a final club, he can take Erica to places where she would meet people that she wouldn’t normally get to meet.

The main point to take from this scene, however, is that Zuckerberg is surrounded by people. Whilst it’s suggested that none of them actually know him, and the one person that does dislikes him so much that she dumps him on the spot, he is still sitting relatively comfortably in a crowded bar. At least he is until Erica leaves, and he suddenly looks lost; a rabbit in the headlights. He quickly leaves.

Fincher’s level of control over the film is highlighted in this very detail. What is the most powerful and effective way to demonstrate loss through cinema? The fact that Zuckerberg is surrounded by people is an important detail to note. Even though he has created a way to, in his words, [take] the entire social experience of college and [put] it online, the people closest to him seem to gradually leave his side until, in the film’s very last shot, he is sitting alone, behind a computer, hopelessly refreshing his ex-girlfriends Facebook page waiting to see if she accepts his belated friend request.

It’s this kind of unheralded subtlety that makes Fincher a truly great film maker. Even though he is widely seen as an abrasive director with an eye for the extreme (see Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac and the upcoming The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), his implementation of well observed character moments are  what truly stand out.

In Se7en, the scene in which Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) goes to Detective Mills’ (Brad Pitt) house for dinner, and Mills immediately wrestles with his dogs emphatically shows the audience that Mills is a good man, and a family man, and serves to enhance the tragedy of his devastating end; In The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Daisy Fuller (Cate Blanchett) tells the story of the film in flashback from her deathbed. Without this emotional pull, the tragedy of the film may have been more muted and, on an emotional level, certainly would not have worked as well.

The same can be said of The Social Network. If Fincher chose not to show the way people gradually left Zuckerberg’s side throughout the film, then it almost certainly wouldn’t have had the same impact as it did. If he had a close group of friends around him at all times it would destroy the illusion of Zuckerberg being a social outcast, which is, at least in my mind, the crux of the film’s success.

A lesser film maker may have overlooked this detail; it’s a good job Fincher isn’t one.