David Fincher’s stylish psychological thriller ‘Gone Girl’, like many other of his acclaimed films, asserts the filmmaker’s unique style in constructing vividly dark pieces of cinema particularly through the director’s emphasis on Cinematography, Sound and Mise-en-scene. These micro-features evoke an emotive response from the spectator, in which this particular film becomes somewhat cerebral as the narrative sparks numerous societal debates regarding marriage and gender. The film itself is almost theatre-like as the main characters are meticulously staging their lives like a grand production, in order to both persuade and dissuade the audience or in this case, the public’s and the media’s perception.
The film begins with a foreboding score as we open with a point of view shot from Ben Affleck’s ‘Nick’s’ perspective as he gazes down upon his wife, Rosamund Pike’s ‘Amy’. The non-diegetic music and cinematography within the opening scene corresponds with the narration we hear from Nick as his wife passively looks back at him, in which he internally says, “I imagine cracking her skull…” leading on to how that would make him feel. This opening piece of dialogue is both dark and jarring and enables the audience to be completely aware of the film’s tone from the outset. The opening shots and significantly throughout the film itself, are mostly de-saturated and tinted with negative colours, limiting the colour palette to various blues, browns, yellows and blacks. This, in effect, links to the narrative as a whole and it is the world that Fincher has constructed so that this particular colour palette signifies the disturbingly bleak aspect of marriage which we see through the eyes of this couple, as their relationship soon transpires out of control.
From the opening sequence, we gain the sense that the present day is miserable and depressing for Nick as his body language is lethargic and slow as he walks in to his bar, aiming to drown his sorrows and vent about his wife to his sister Margo. Again, the colour of the shot is tinted negatively, blue, which appears to be visual reoccurrence or convention within this film. The lighting within the scene is low key so that the characters are never well lit to project that air of ambiguity and negativity about them. Stylistically, before the scene ends, we cut to a mid-shot of his empty glass in which he then slides it across the bar, once the glass stops, so does the scene with a sudden cut to black as he proceeds to talk in retrospect. We then fade into the film’s first flashback, which is a prevalent editing technique used throughout the film as it is Fincher’s way of manipulating the audience’s viewpoint so that we are met with two separate narrative strands. The flashbacks are primarily from the soon-to-be incriminating perspective of Amy, and what is deemed ‘the present day’, is at first, from the perspective of Nick’s.
The scene begins with a fade into an extreme close-up of her writing the opening lines to a particular day within her diary. ‘I am crazy, stupid, happy…’ she writes as she sets the scene whereby we see how both Nick and Amy first meet. Again, linking to the significance of colour, the flashback and opening wide-angled shot, seems to be filtered this time with a yellow, autumnal glow to possibly emphasise how old and distant that memory is as it conveys such an idyllic and romantic scene in comparison to the negativity of the present day where the couple seem to be posing such hate and sourness towards one another. At the end of the first flashback sequence, we see Amy and Nick’s first kiss. The mid-shot of them kissing is framed in such a way so that they are kissing through a sugar storm when a box is dropped from a delivery van, creating a romanticizing cloud of dust around them. Dust itself has connotations of death and longevity and so this particular element becomes a recurring motif throughout the film, as we see this echoed within later scenes such as the close-up of forensic dust when Amy and Nick’s household is being searched by the authorities as Nick becomes more incriminating for his wife’s disappearance. We also see a similar mid-shot angle of Nick, this time kissing his mistress as snow falls from the sky as Amy despairingly looks on. It is, a small stylistic choice made by the director that creates a striking motif that stays with the spectator and therefore we are emotionally and psychologically engaged with what is happening onscreen as we are able to make such visual links throughout key shots and scenes.
Within the first act of the film, we seem to gain sympathy for Amy’s character as she is perceived to be ‘America’s Sweetheart’ or indeed ‘Amazing Amy’ which is the main character within her parent’s catalogue of children’s books. It is here that upon meeting Nick for the first time that she describes him as having ‘quite a villainous chin.’ Nick’s character can be perceived at first, by many members of the audience, as being villainous and controlling because of his serious and intense facial expressions and body language but that aspect is sometimes shielded by the fact that you cannot see that evilness so easily within his exterior. He is constantly wearing bright but simplistic colours through his choice clothing such as white, light blues and greys which portray him, especially around the time of Amy’s mysterious disappearance, as being the suffering, yet innocent husband, desperately pleading for his wife’s safe return.
Overall, the film as a whole, through the director’s particular use of cinematography, mise-en-scene and sound is constantly manipulating the spectator’s approach to the narrative as we are experiencing dark content within bright surroundings, through particular shots, sounds, and clothing that our protagonists wear, which results in audiences contemplating as to which main protagonist they inevitably want to empathize with.