Any list of the best working auteur directors will likely include David Fincher, but you probably don’t want to tell him that to his face. In a new interview with Little White Lies, the “Mindhunter” director and executive producer gets honest about his “distaste” for the word “auteur.” When it comes down to it, moviemaking is too irregular and unpredictable to give one person total authorial credit.
“The problem with auteurism is that it presupposes that one person can impress upon 95 people, so clearly, that the manifestation of whatever it is going on in your head can be clearly attributed to them,” Fincher said. “The reality of moviemaking is, y’know, it’s a rat fuck. Every day is a skirmish, and you might escape every skirmish, but there are injuries and there losses, and there are things that you had 10 meetings about that go off perfectly, and there are things that you’ve had no meetings about that ended up taking eight of the 12 hours in the day because you didn’t think it was going to be so complicated.”
For Fincher, the idea of the “auteur” negates the kind of “happy accidents” that constantly take place during production. Given how infamously controlled and precise Fincher’s direction is, plus how demanding he is on set with his multiple-take directing style, it’s surprising to hear him frustrated over the idea that one person has sole control over an entire film.
While the director agrees there are many things that you can count on and are able to successfully get your crew to accomplish, more times than not things don’t work in your favor and force you to work outside of your control. As Fincher concludes:
Everybody who comes on to a set looks at it from a slightly different standpoint. You can’t say to the third violinist, ‘This is what the totality of the thing should sound like.’ You just need them to get them to do their thing. When you hear it, it either moves you or it doesn’t, so you have to figure if it needs a little bit more of this or that. That’s happening in the rehearsal, it’s happening in the coverage throughout the day. You hone in as you get tighter and tighter and tighter on people, but you’re also getting tighter in terms of time. You’re honing in on one little thing, and then you do the same again in the edit, with the sound effects, with the music, with the colour grading. Suddenly all this stuff comes together, and the notion that anyone could say, ‘This is precisely what it’s going to look like,’ to me is amazing.