The tone Fincher was after stemmed from a belief that the camera should take a backseat to the performers, which include Robin Wright as Spacey’s Lady Macbeth-like wife, Kate Mara as a young, ambitious journalist, and Corey Stoll as a vice-loving congressman. One of the few things Fincher spoke to each director about before they began work was to be respectful of the main actors who were doing the heavy lifting. Another was that handheld shooting and Steadicam usage was frowned upon, which for anyone familiar with Fincher’s work—rich in elegant, symmetrical compositions and spare, gliding camerawork— shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
“I remember David saying something like, he would only move the camera if there was a damn good reason to,” recalls Foley. “So I found myself with a self-imposed discipline to work within because I felt it should be stylistically consistent.”
Schumacher, who has been friends with Fincher for over 25 years, says, “This is very classical, where framing is important. It allows actors to fill the space and play out the scene without cutting a lot. It’s the way movies used to be shot. There’s plenty of space to dolly and do the voodoo we do, but without handheld or Steadicam, which are sometimes used in lazy filmmaking. We really tried to shoot it like a film.”
One visual model bandied about between Fincher and the guest directors was another film about dirty politics. “[David] shot the newspaper office [in House of Cards] very similarly to how it was shot in All the President’s Men,” says McDougall. “In terms of the low angles, the wide lenses, the lighting style, it’s from that era of American filmmaking when such great films were made. It’s a very stripped-down [approach] toward design, lighting and performance.”
Fincher also made sure to remind his fellow directors that they could be minimal in their coverage. A shot of somebody reading a business card, for example, was about believing the actor’s face, not having to see an insert of the card. Such guidance gave Carl Franklin the freedom to avoid the emphasis on close-ups that network television requires, and be more subtle with choreography, allowing scenes to play out in carefully orchestrated master shots. “A lot of times television is master shot then bang, bang, bang, just heads. So I was happy to hear that they were not interested in that,” Franklin says. “That really allows for you to design interesting shots, shots that have a lot of information communicated in different ways. It’s trusting the pacing within the scene and not feeling that you have to manipulate it later with a lot of cuts.”
The story of Harriet Vanger.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo : David Fincher’s Commentary
The way that it connected to Officer Morell, who we see David Dencik in flashback here, and then to Officer Morell as he is in modern day, and that’s Donald Sumpter. When we connect the two, we went with this idea of this gestural link between them, the lighting of the cigarette. We see him step out of the trees and he lights a cigarette and then we cut to him present day finishing lighting the cigarette. It wasn’t intended that way, it was just one of these things that we found as we were cutting the material that we needed to really be able to tie this guy in the past to this guy in the present. Originally the train shot as he goes up to Hedeby was going to be used to connect them, but we ended up doing it just with the cigarette.
The Films of David Fincher
“When you’re talking about having to introduce a character like this, she has to ride up in a motorcycle and whip off her helmet and you don’t want it to look like a Clairol commercial. I wanted her to take off this helmet and instead of it being these long, flowing locks she has this hair like a porcupine and to follow her through this office so you really establish what a, sort of, fringe-line human she is.” - David Fincher [x]