Mank (2020): A Usual Triumph of Fincher’s Stylistic Direction

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While Gary Oldman’s phenomenal performance can’t help the film reaching its emotional overturn due to its overloaded historical context, there’s no denying that Mank is a triumph in visual and audio style that resonate the golden age of Hollywood thanks to David Fincher’s direction.

After 6 years of absence from the cinema, David Fincher’s finally back with his 11th feature, Mank. Written by Fincher’s deceased father, Jack Fincher, Mank is set around 1930s Hollywood from the perspective of a scathing and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. “Mank”iewicz as he races against time to finish “Citizen Kane”. Mind all of you to watch Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941) beforehand to avoid any doziness or dropping the film due to lack of context. Moreover, it is fun to have some easter egg game spot, isn’t it?

As much as the premise sells, it would never satisfy the audience. Don’t expect any Mank’s legal action trying to sue Welles for screenwriting credits or Welles tries to threaten back through his executive power (will be explained further later). However, David Fincher’s ambitious direction and style are more than enough to divert the misdirect premise as the audience concentrates on the visual he boasts. A tribute to the golden age of Hollywood, it’s not only how the film was shot (or post-produced) in black and white. Rather, Fincher adds some scratchy, vulnerable texture to the visuals that will surely glue your eyes to the screen. Moreover, the decision of Fincher to use sound in the film was brilliant, using a monoaural sound mix instead of recording similar to modern films to add authenticity. This attention to detail is what makes Fincher the needle in a haystack. A genius auteur (although he preferred not to be called that way).

Perhaps the only unaesthetic aspect that Fincher did not capture is the camerawork and editing. It is impossible for an old Hollywood film to be able to capture a lot of these reels using swift movement moreover a smooth transition cut. But it’s not Fincher we’re talking about if these elements weren’t present. Photographed by Erik Messerschmidt’s first DOP debut, Messerschmidt’s able to capture the essence of Hollywood with a flair style. Largely thanks to its gorgeous production design as well. Oh, and can we talk about NIN Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ soundtrack as well. Being used to their bleak, dark ambient soundtrack from Fincher’s film becomes a new experience through light, jazzy tone without the use of any synthesizer-reliant ambient sound. It’s new, weird really. But it just works on a deeper level.

The performances are phenomenal. Oldman, playing as the titular character, created sympathy to the audience even if there are no standout dramatic moments in the film. This is not an inch similar to “The Darkest Hour” or “Leon: The Professional” where Oldman gave an antique performance. Here, Mank is human. He’s very much vulnerable even on the surface he might not. But giving a sense of vulnerability without showing it is one of the greatest compliments an actor could receive (I guess). Other performances, even if they don’t appear as standout (who does when Oldman being the main spotlight) also gives a believable performance. Can’t really comment much since these are real-life figures that I myself have a lack of knowledge about, and that’s where the problem lies in the film.

Even as the person who had watched Citizen Kane, there would still be a lack of understanding for us non-American due to its deep root of American history. This is not  Social Network where the character conflicts are focused. This is a story of a man with multiple conflicts and events, similar to life itself. It becomes a downturn in the second act, where the film decided to focus on some political election of democratic and republican which I found to be very inconsistent with the film story. Just become not enjoyable. Yet I finally realize the intention to insert that subplot when suddenly it all becomes connected in the end. In the condition of having watched Citizen Kane of course.

I’m glad I do get a chance to catch up on the film in the cinema before being released on Netflix. It would totally be a different experience to watch on a laptop and on a big screen. Be sure to check Mank in Netflix, available worldwide now.

Rating:
4/5

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Film Credits

Mank

Nationality: USA

Duration: 131 min.

Director

David Fincher

Cast

Gary Oldman
Amanda Seyfried
Lily Collins
Arliss Howard
Tom Pelphrey
Charles Dance

Written by

Jack Fincher

Cinematographer

Erik Messerschmidt

Edited by

Kirk Baxter

Composed by

Trent Reznor
Atticus Ross

Synopsis: 1930s Hollywood is reevaluated through the eyes of scathing social critic and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish the screenplay of Citizen Kane.