I finished watching the 10 episodes of the Netflix/David Fincher series Mindhunter yesterday. My boyfriend and I talked the series through for a good half hour over dinner and kept coming back to it hours later with more observations, always a sign that we had watched something artistically and intellectually beyond our usual escapist crime procedural.
One of the things that I really love about Mindhunter is that, much like Mad Men, the atmosphere and style of the series bled into my life. Mad Men always gives me a of hazy feeling when I look up from the screen, that my world is less real than theirs. I feel like some of that effect is because the camera often captures beautifully posed, quite wide, still shots that then move into action. The slow pace and choreographed nature of the show make small details, like filling and refilling a whisky tumbler, jump out at me and draw attention to the often silent behaviour of the characters. It’s all ‘show don’t tell’ storytelling. When I stop watching, the everyday in my life decelerates and takes on new symbolism, influenced by Matthew Weiner’s style.
With Mindhunter, I had the same feeling of immersion and intensity that continued long after the episodes were done and I was back in my living room. The Nerdwriter‘s video tackles exactly this emotional reaction by analysing Fincher’s distinctive and consistent use of the camera to follow his characters. The video provides a compendium of clips that demonstrate the incredibly precise way the camera tracks the characters’ movements so that we feel connected to their perspective. I thought it was a really perceptive and interesting observation about the TV series and about all of Fincher’s films and it helped me to understand why I reacted a certain way to what I was watching.
My main criticism of the show so far? Wendy Carr’s character evolution. When Anna Torv, whom I love in Fringe, first appeared as Dr. Carr in episode 3. I was ecstatic to see her playing a complex, intelligent woman. By the time we’d reached episode 9, her character had been reduced down to a blinkered drive for academic purity and possible loneliness, hinted at through several short scenes where she tries to bond with an off camera cat. Although I was happy to see that the cat remained invisible, avoiding anything too trite (take heed Season 2), her role in the plot didn’t fit with her earlier promise as an innovative thinker and layered female character.