Paul Yarbrough

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We explore Gone Girl and David Fincher's manipulation of trust:

“The sooner you look like yourself, the sooner you will feel like yourself.” People tell a lot of lies in Gone Girl, but perhaps none as big as that one. This is a film in which appearances and images of everything, from the big picture to the tiniest details, cannot be trusted.

In a way, then, Gone Girl is the film that Fincher has been working toward his entire career, placing the distrust of appearances of his early films and the shortcomings of images in his later work together in a way that projects its distrust directly onto the viewer.The Game puts a banker (Michael Douglas) into a staged alternate-reality that culminates in his inability to differentiate it from reality. Fight Club’s protagonists assert that society’s consumerist obsessions are turning us into commodities, only to reveal that the nameless narrator is himself not who we thought.

Fincher’s more recent and sophisticated films tend to ask these questions in less abstract and grandiose ways, looking at information and images rather than large statements about consumerism. Zodiac is a fight between analog and digital and ultimately the primacy of the former and the versatility of the latter. Characters are clumsily stuck trying to solve a killer’s riddles and Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) sees his efforts slowed as he digs through archives of information and scammers to meet contacts in person. All this is suggested by Fincher’s choice to shoot the film digitally—the blood, the city, and the information that creates its own plane on the image all show that digital technology is just as “real” and ultimately more versatile than clumsy analog partners. The Social Network approached it from the other direction, starting with faith in the digital image but gradually coming to doubt it. At the start, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) loses (or rather throws away) Erica and is not tagged for Harvard’s prestigious final clubs. His reaction is to create Facebook, a digital projection of oneself at their greatest—the photos of parties, a clear marker of relationships, quadruple digit friend counts—so as to hide their own inadequacies. It ultimately fails Mark—even his digital self is lonely without Erica, and has he sits refreshing the page as the film draws to a close, the takeaway is that there are some lies that we can’t even get away with on the digital landscape.

Gone Girl goes furthest: whether it is one’s physical appearance, their demeanor, or their presentation on the news, one cannot trust what they see. Moreover, the film itself continues to reveal its own deceptions, and the cinematic image itself becomes fallible, subject to issues of timing and context that obscure the truth. Fincher’s films have struggled with how our reality — be it self-imposed or not — shapes us, and in Gone Girl they shape not just the characters, but the viewers. We unwittingly become just like the masses in the film rushing to cable news day after day. Like them, we don’t even know how crooked our vision is.

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