Additional footage - in the form of extended takes & alternate endings
4 Audio commentary - 1. Director, Pitt, Freeman 2. Screenwriter, Editor, Producer, Director 3. Dir of Photography, Production Designer, Editor, Director 4. Sound Designer, Music Composer, Sound Editor, Director.
Featurette - Exploration of opening title Sequence.
Production notes - and designs
Seven - Special Edition
New Line/Roadshow Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 136 mins .
R . PAL
NOTE: DVDnet has done it again with another exclusive staff review. We hope our individual opinions provide you with the information you need about this DVD release.
While his feature film directorial debut with Alien 3 may not have impressed either critics or fans of that series, former music video director David Fincher launched himself firmly into the world of visionary A-list directors with his next project. Conceived by Screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker - who had previously been known for B-grade material such as Brainscan and the screenplay for the well-intentioned but flawed movie version of Dean Koontz’s pulp horror novel Hideaway - Se7en is, on the surface, a standard-issue serial killer flick. All the required components are there - the veteran cop on the brink of retirement, the young, naïve and idealistic rookie whose self-confidence overrides his lack of experience, and the impossibly intelligent killer with a game plan that makes sense only to him. But Se7en doesn’t play by the usual rules.
Ultra Violet and Ultra Violent
Walker’s screenplay is undeniably groundbreaking in this genre - while there are many familiar elements, Walker explores them in new, darker ways. Though it doesn’t seem so on first viewing, Se7en is very much a rite-of-passage story, with Pitt’s inexperienced Detective Mills making the journey under the guidance of jaded veteran Somerset (Freeman). As the film opens, Mills is the typical new-era detective - he’s cock-sure, fearless and hungry, very much in love with his wife Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow) but compelled to live what is almost a second life as a police detective. His wife can’t talk to him, and he can’t understand himself to any real degree. But all that’s about to change. Because a killer known only as John Doe is starting out on a project, one that sees him emotionally and physically torturing his victims before ultimately causing the end of their lives - often by the victim’s own unwilling hand. His “theme” is the Seven Deadly Sins, and Detective Somerset, six days from retirement, makes the connection almost immediately. Somerset wants none of it - the last thing he wants to do is leave a case unfinished, and he’s determined to wind up his police career without a blemish on his resume. Mills wants in on the case, though, despite Somerset’s protestations; what follows is a dark, dangerous journey into the psyche and world of a very, very unstable man who reacts to the evils he sees in the world in a series of unique and unsettling ways.
While there’s plenty of exploration - both psychological and spiritual - in the Se7en screenplay, the basic structure of this story still conforms to the standard cops-versus-killer format, albeit with substantially more intelligence than your garden-variety catch-the-bad-guy movie. What makes Se7en so unique is the way Fincher treats his material - he permeates the film with the very essence of dread, fear and self-loathing, from the relentlessly dark imagery to the up-front portrayal of the desperate need of all the principal characters for some kind of redemption. Employing all manner of visual and aural effects and distortions to help create the right atmosphere for this story, Fincher crafts a world that vaguely resembles the city life that most of us know, but one which filters out the good almost completely. Watching Se7en is as much a visceral experience as it is a narrative one, and it’s the tension, dread and unsettling atmosphere of Fincher’s interpretation of the story that makes Se7en seem so believable. This is a film that stays with you long after the end credits have rolled - not for any specific scene, but because of the sheer darkness of it all. Fincher’s visual flair is well documented - after all, the man was a music video director, and seems perfectly comfortable with the concept of telling a story through visuals and mood - but he also knows what’s not needed, and never overdoes a scene that’s best treated with simplicity or subtlety. Fincher would go on to score arguably even greater acclaim with the brilliant Fight Club, but Se7en stands, six years after it was first released, as a modern classic - and one that seems to get better with age.
Looking at it from the perspective of an upgrade to the original PAN & SCAN release, this is the exact opposite; a widescreen 2.35:1 anamorphically enhanced image that looks incredible. The image is truly stunning and the discussion of the telecine process applied to the film within the extras really does explain why we are blessed with an exceptional transfer. The muted and muddied hues of the image are Finchers intention and work well with the movie, as this is the way I remembered the film looking in the cinema.
The killer strikes.
Whilst colors are muted, black level is perfect and prominent throughout a large percentage of the movie with shadow detail on par with the best of them. Fincher makes mention of his intention to get a truly black image and he achieves it. When Fincher requires color it comes up rich and vibrant (as can be seen in the ultra violet screen cap).
Vince says: You can safely turf out your old SE7EN dvd now, or preferably give it to your local butcher to give him some career inspiration. It becomes very clear through viewing the film and selected extra features later on that Fincher had a very specific vision with this film, and it seems he's taken the opportunity given by this special re-release to go back and right the wrongs of the past. Taking the trouble of going back to the original negative and tweaking the picture to fully realize this original vision, he has created a darker, more appealing picture that is doubtless THE way the story should be (and should have been originally) shown on dvd.
The differences? Well, rather than do a balls up job trying to describe it, I'll leave that to the more eloquent members of the DVDnet team who were in attendance at this review, or better yet is best seen for yourself with time spent on the fantastic extras on disc 2. This will highlight the changes better than words can describe. If you really feel the need to compare for yourself, loading up your old version and comparing scenes in this new release will show a clear increase in detail and clarity, resolving finer detail in clothing, faces and the various settings in and around the city and a vast change in the quality of the shadows which are rich and inky and much more encompassing than before.
Anthony says: This new video transfer for Se7en was prompted not, as many region 4 customers may suspect, by the general grumbling about the horrible full-frame version that was inflicted upon Australian DVD customers at the time of the format’s launch. Rather, Fincher was never happy with the US widescreen transfer of his film, and wanted it done right with the aid of the latest telecine equipment. Se7en, like all Fincher’s films to date, makes extensive use of darkness and shadow as an aid to the storytelling. But that, of course, is problematic on home video, and it was quite apparent to those who saw the film in cinemas that the original widescreen transfer of Se7en did not accurately recreate the intended look, mood or intention of the film.
Starting afresh for this new DVD version, Fincher and his team have transferred the original cut negatives of the movie to hi-def video using the state-of-the-art Spirit Datacine, which has been the equipment of choice for many cutting-edge transfers of late. That done, his team have quite literally reworked the entire movie - reframing some shots, recolouring most of them, and generally spending an enormous amount of time making sure that this is the definitive version of the film for home video, both on DVD and on future higher-definition formats. They’ve succeeded in their efforts, too - the only word to describe this transfer is “stunning”.
It’s not a conventional transfer. But this is not a visually conventional film. While the previous widescreen transfer looked perfectly fine, do an A/B comparison with this new one (a feat made easily possible by one of the wonderfully informative extras included on the second disc) and you’ll want to donate your previous copy to the Drink Coaster Society. Everything here is rendered with such detail and clarity that it’s almost breathtaking - seen on a large projection screen, there’s barely a thing to complain about save for the odd bit of minor aliasing and moire patterning. Seen on a 72cm CRT screen at home, though, it’s like having the negative held up to your eyes - a lot of care and attention has gone into this transfer, and the fact that it looks so cinematic and so natural (despite Fincher’s characteristically unnatural visual style) is reason enough to come back to this movie in its newly-mastered version.
This is a very good transfer indeed! Presented in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 this 16x9 enhanced transfer is pin sharp! There is a tremendous amount of detail present. The finest detail of the actors faces can be seen and the smaller headlines on newspapers readily understood. In one scene the spines of books in a library are shown in close up. The clarity is so great, the weave of the fabric can easily be seen.
The colour palette is slightly subdued but this should not be considered a weakness of the transfer rather it is a deliberate choice of director, David Fincher. Having said that, there are a couple of scenes in which coloured neon lights are shown. They are wonderfully coloured, standing out as intended without crossing the line into over saturation. There are many scenes in this movie that occur in dark, drab rooms and yet there is still a lot of detail to be seen in the darker areas of the picture. The feeling of decay and darkness is assisted by an excellent black level.
Some Film-To-video artefacts can be seen, Aliasing being the most common. It occurs in a number of places but is, in the main, quite minor. I also noticed some minor moire effects as well. Don't be put off though as this version is better than my copy of the region 1 equivalent. This transfer was created from a very clean source as I only noticed a handful of film artefacts throughout.
To partner the new video, the audio has been reprocessed into a true 6.1 channel mix with both Dolby Digital EX 5.1 and DTS ES 6.1 present on the disc. To round out the options there is a Dolby Surround soundtrack so everyone out their in DVD land will be catered for; as it should be.
Words to describe the audio range from "Thunderous" to "detailed" to "perfect" to "complimentary". The level of detail within the mix, even down to the tiniest of detail, is mixed to perfection. All channels are put through their paces throughout the movie whether they are used for ambience or directionality of effects. Bass response is extremely tight and can be felt immeadiately during the opening credits scene where the Nine Inch Nails track comes into it's own. The score from Howard Shore is haunting and intense score that accompanies the drama unfolding on screen and peaks toward the end of the movie where you realise you're about to fall off the edge of your seat.
One noticeable difference between the two 6.1 tracks is the db level differences with the dts track some 3 - 5 db louder. Whilst the Dolby track is no slouch, the dts track still gives the impression of a much more rock solid presentation with some really deep bass and subsequent higher roll-off. There IS an audio synch issue as Mills and Summerset step out of the first murder scene and onto the new York streets. The synch issue is there for approximately 10 seconds and is noticeable whilst the Dolby version exhibits an ever so slight sync issue that is also present on the region 1 disc. Don't let this very, very minor instance distract you from what is a truly entertaining and immersive sound experience.
Vince says: You'll also hear right away just how much consideration went into the sound design of SE7EN, to perfectly compliment the Fincher re-tweaked picture. The first thing I noticed is how completely you are brought into the world of the characters like a welcome voyeur, with brilliant environmental ambience designed to make you feel inside every scene. With the rattling of passing trains, rain falling on the car and the hum of city life going on around you, this dvd is a perfect example of how enveloping the viewer in the ambience of the world the character inhabit can take you out of your lounge room and into the world of the film.
The clarity of dialogue is such that you don't feel as though you're eavesdropping on the conversations, you feel like you have an "access-all-areas" privilege to listen in to the detective's investigation and private lives. But most of all, what stood out for me was the manner in which the various settings sounded just right sonically, ultimately enhancing the sensation of "being there" rather than just passively observing
Like the video transfer, the audio for this new disc was recreated from scratch - in this case, a fresh remix from the original sound “stems” used for the theatrical mix. The re-recording mixers have taken the opportunity to do a mix specifically targeted at home theatre (both with EQ and the positioning of individual sounds) and have also corrected a few of their misgivings over the original theatrical 5.1 mix. So here we have brand new, wonderfully hiss-free remixes in both Dolby Digital EX and DTS ES, along with a specially created Dolby Surround matrixed version, all of them rivalling any of this year’s audio extravaganzas in terms of both detail and “wow” factor.
While largely dialogue-driven, the audio for Se7en makes extensive use of both subtle detail (which is spread across the available channels in a very unobtrusive way) and music, as well as the occasional burst of audio fireworks. The subwoofer gets a solid workout throughout this movie, providing an anchor for the music used on the soundtrack as well as a handy source of tension during the film’s more visceral scenes. Everything’s crystal-clear - dialogue, effects, and music. Surround activity is intelligently used for atmosphere and environmental noise, and never for gimmickry.
The Dolby Digital track appears to have been mastered at a substantially lower level than the DTS version, but other than that, to this reviewer’s ears the two audio tracks had little to separate them from one another in terms of fidelity or definition. As other reviewers have noted, the DTS track had a serious lip-sync problem during the early stages of the movie - particularly in a scene with what appeared to be very loosely-looped dialogue - but that disappeared after a short time. Compared to the previous audio transfer, this new version is easily superior in all ways - and even those listening in stereo or Dolby Surround will notice the difference.
Michael says: For those so equipped, you can listen to either a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track or a DTS 6.1 ES track when playing this disc. I listened to both tracks but only using a 5.1 decoder and so am unable to comment on the use of the centre rear channel in these mixes. What I can tell you is that from a 5.1 perspective, both are excellent examples of home theatre sound tracks with one minor blemish. But first the good news!
Immersive is certainly a word that can safely be used to describe these soundtracks! Both tracks feature excellent use of all channels to create atmosphere. They are constantly active providing queues to the environment in which scenes take place. You will hear rain hitting windows, noise from other apartments, people walking and talking as they walk past offices, traffic noise and the like. You will also hear many fine examples of split channel use. Cars transition from one side to the other or footsteps move from one side to the other and then fade as a person walks away from you. The subwoofer is put to good use as well. It is beautifully used to support the score particularly during the opening titles. It is equally well used for providing punch to the rumble of subway trains and thunder. Adding to this wonderful soundscape is a suitably intense score by Howard Shore.
Now for the bad news, actually it's not all that bad really. There is a short period in which the actors lips are not in sync with the soundtrack. It happens in only one scene, for no longer than about 10 seconds but it is there nevertheless. The problem was most noticeable when listening to the DTS track but was also present in the Dolby Digital version. I should also point out that this fault also exists on the Region 1 version but is less prominent.
When Village Roadshow released Se7en in the early days of DVD in Australia, the level of extras was on par with the audio and video quality of the movie; worthless. The subsequent release of the 2-disc box set in the US triggered a frenzy of questions from the local mob as to whether we would see such an updated release locally. It is with great pleasure that we get exactly what the US disc has thrived on, barring the DVD-Rom content which was taken out for space considerations.
Disc 1 - contains four audio commentary tracks focusing on varying aspects of the movie and its pre and post production.
I could have sworn I dropped it here.
Commentary 1 – The Stars - Director David Fincher, Brad Pitt & Morgan Freeman provide their own perspectives of the movie, the other cast and the director. Fincher and Pitt are providing a proper commentary whilst Freeman is edited in from his own seperate commentary recorded elswhere. All manner of topics are brought up from the character structure to the looping of the dialogue, and subsequent obvious bad looping, to the test screenings and initial reactions. Fincher and Pitt have a genuine friendship here and this is an enjoyable time spent with them and parts of the movie. Commentary 2 – The Story - Professor of Film Studies/Author Richard Dyer, Screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker, Editor Richard Franics-Bruce, New Line President of Production Michael De Luca and David Fincher. Richard Dyer disects the movie in regards to the way it tries to portray serial killings, sin and the story. Fincher also focuses on the various drafts of the movie and how everyone who fell in love with the script referred to the first version known as the "Head in the Box" movie. The level of information about the characters and the story is incredible and is a great case study for anyone wanting to study this and other movies of this genre in general.
Commentary 3 – The Picture - Director of Photography Darius Khondji, Prodcution Designer Arthur Max, Editor Richard Francis-Bruce, Richard Dyer and David Fincher talk about the look of the film itself, the color processes used on the print, the locations scouted for the various shots, the detail used in the studio backlot constructions, the style David wanted to achieve and succeeded in doing, the clothing, the grittiness, the absolute black Fincher always wanted in Alien 3 but could achieve until now and more. Whilst not scene specific and everyone providing their own seperate accounts of the commentary, this is a very interesting track. Commentary 4 - The Sound - Sound Designer Ren Klyce, Composer Howard Shore (with isolated 5.1 music and fx cues), Richard Dye and David Fincher. The sound design and the use of music in a movie is the focus of this final commentary. The talk focuses on Finchers detailed tapestry of the audio by focusing on each scene and detailing the sound of what is beyond the edge of the frame. One of the funnier moments here is the note Fincher gives us on the 'lust' scene where the various use of orgasm sounds used within the blarring music to give the soundtrack that extra 'detail'. It's not noticeable to the average viewer until you really pay attention to it within the commentary. Little intricate details like this are commented on and make you marvel at the effort involved in this movie.
These commentaries are some of the best heard on a DVD and truly make the first disc an excellent package on its own.
Disc 2 - contains a whole two layers full of the most interesting and entertaining extras we've yet come across for those who enjoyed this film and those who enjoy the DVD format in general.
The first extra on this disc to utilize the multi-angle feature is the Exploration of the Opening Title Sequence. Here you can switch between three angles from early storyboards, rough version to the final complete version. If that’s not enough, you can view the same footage in six different audio formats: Dolby Digital Surround, Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, DTS 5.1 ES, 24bit/96Khz Stereo mix, commentary on the concept by designer Ren Klyce or commentary on the soundtrack remastering by audio engineers Brant Biles and Robert Margouleff. The 24bit mix is only available on the storyboard angle of the opening sequence.
The next extras page is a collection of Deleted scenes and extended takes titled Original Opening Including Storyboards, Car ride in from Gluttony, Spare Some Change, Raid on Victors, My Future, Pride & Tracy Wakes from Light Sleep. All scenes feature an optional commentary from director David Fincher, including the alternate ending section, where he discusses the deletions and/or extensions and why they were excised. The original opening storyboard shows an alternate title sequence with the use of a train. Included on the disc is an alternate “test” ending as well as animated storyboards of an un-shot ending. The test ending was changed ever so subtlety yet effectively enhances the tone and intent of the shot whilst the storyboard sequence would have been out of place.
The Filmographies for the cast and crew is very exstensive in both quantity and quality. It makes you stop and wonder how some of the main cast being in their earlier days of stardom with the likes of Pitt, Paltrow and Spacey now huge drawcards in their own right.
In the static images arena, the Production Designs (9mins) showcase the work of production designer Arthur Max with his own commentary. The designs here are very striking and show the beginnings of the tone of the film itself. Some people have some either creative or disturbed minds.
The Still Photographs showcase are always an excellent idea if done correctly and here we have John Doe's Photographs that he snapped of the detectives and his victims with commentary from the actual photographer, Melodie McDaniel. Next are the photographs of the sloth victim, Victors decomposition, with commentary from Fincher himself. The Police Crime Scene Photographs and the Production Photographs round out this comprehensive section, totaling around 40 minutes.
The Promotional Materials feature a 6 minute EPK (Electronic Press Kit) and Theatrical Trailer. The EPK includes the usual suspects such as cast/crew interviews and the fluff padding to promote the movie, although word-of-mouth would have been enough for this feature. The original theatrical trailer is presented in a 2.35:1 ratio and 5.1 sound.
The notebooks created by John Doe are explored and reveal the amount of detail that went into creating them for use as props. It is amazing to see these props in the film and wonder just how much effort would have been needed for that minor aspect of the movie and then to see the work that went into it just amazes you even more.
The final, and easily the coolest and best extra on this or any DVD for that matter, is Mastering For The Home Theater. Broken up into 4 sub-sections, this feature looks at just what went into creating the DVD and exactly how it was done, right down to the telecine process. This is one of the more redeeming extras you will ever come across if you are truly interested in the film-DVD process.
Three down, Four to go.
The first process, the Audio Mastering looks at the effort involved to create a new 6.1 sound system specifically for the DVD format with the inclusion of the Dolby Digital 6.1 EX and DTS 6.1 ES soundtracks included both on the main feature and some of the extras listed above. The Video Mastering looks at the new telecine process used for this new release. Where the original was on an older telecine, the new transfer was done on a High Definition Spirit Datacine, as used for Saving Private Ryan, to achieve a higher level of detail, richness of color, dynamic contrast and the ability to present the movie as originally intended. The most intriguing of them all is the real-time Color Correction segment where colorist Stephen Nakamura talks us through, and performs, the process of color correcting a scene. Right before our eyes we see how reframing of the Super35 image is performed, how the color is altered, the hues are adjusted, highlights and shadows are enhanced, shot changes are evenly balanced and more. You could literally sit with him as he does the whole movie in amazement as the tricks of the trade are revealed. To cap it off, there is a telecine gallery using the multiangle feature to show the differences in sound and vision for three select scenes; Outside Gluttony, Inside Gluttony & Coda.
This is easily the most entertaining collection of extras to appear on a region 4 DVD to date. Village Roadshow have made the effort to fit as much of the region 1 content on this disc and all that has been sacrificed is the DVD-Rom content. Do we miss out on much there? Not at all since a lot of the international region 1 review sites hardly rate a mention of it.
Village Roadshow have produced yet another exceptional DVD onto the region 4 market with one of the best movies to come out of the 90's, a video transfer that simply looks stunning and this regions first DTS ES 6.1 soundtrack. Coupled with yet another Dolby EX soundtrack and a collection of extras that put a lot of other DVDs, combined, to shame.
From all of us who reviewed the title, this one comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED indeed.
A Special Thank you
The Melbourne based DVD net staff would like to thank Trevor Lees for providing the high end equipment used to review this disc on. Trevor Lees Audio is located at the following contact details: