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22796Brad Pitt meets the Psycho Nihilist: "Seven"

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  • iambiguously
    Nov 1, 2003
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      From Thomas Hibbs' "Shows About Nothing"

      "'Seven' allows for no ironic distance or detached levity.
      Malevolence is unrelenting and the best we can do is to cultivate
      certain virtues to fend off disaster...The only hope available to us
      consists in not succumbing to the meaninglessness of it all, but in
      keeping alive our sense of the injustice and disorder of
      contemporary life.....'Seven' provides no purgation or catharis: its
      ending is oppressive and emotionally stultifying."

      Here Hibbs and I are, indeed, watching the same film and drawing
      similar lessons from it---if then intertwining them in a very
      different overarching political/moral/philosophical context.

      John Doe, in my mind, is clearly a psychopath cut from the same
      cloth as so many other religous fanatics. He just wraps up his own
      murderous agenda in literary references to Dante---a contemporary
      Urban Jungle equated with Hell. In my mind this, in fact, is what
      cultural nihilism is turning the entire globe into. The new Gods---
      consumption, pop culture and celebrity---transfigure EVERYthing into
      entertainment, into marketable commodities. Even its own decadence
      is fair game. And give there is nothing but this tunnel vision
      itself, the light at the end of it can only come from how we
      maneuver inside it as individuals. Again, as with Lector, there is
      no reasoning with minds like John Does's, right? There is only
      catching them and putting them in cages; and hoping like hell that,
      before they are ensnared by "the law", we do not ourselves, by
      chance, bump into one.

      Is there any room for hope at all here? Sure, in Hollywood:

      "The final note of 'Seven' is....not entirely negative. After
      Somerset tells the police chief that he wants to provide whatever
      Mills need, he acknowledges that he will 'be around', and he is no
      longer planning to get out. The movie ends with his quoting
      Hemingway's statement: 'The world is a fine place and worth fighting
      for'. He comments, 'I agree with the second part'....The world is
      wicked; nonetheless, it is worth fighting for. The great temptation?
      Apathy. And the great task? To execise a moderation that is not to
      be confused with apathy, to act out a chastened passion for justice,
      a passion we know in advance will never be satisfied."

      Hibbs then goes on to reconfigure Somerset's previous cynical
      resgination into an "unquenched thirst for justice". That I don't
      buy at all. But let's be honest. In this case, the Hollywood ending
      is as close as we will ever come to an "answer". The crucial
      conflict being this: where do we draw the line [personally] between
      Somerset and John Doe? Here, I think Hibbs hits the nail on the
      head: approaching the quest for justice with a "CHASTENED passion".

      If you get my drift.