Directed by David Fincher and excellently rendered by top brass actors – Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey and Brad Pitt, this movie show cases not just the underbelly of an American metropolis but also the ugly underbelly of the human mind.
Somerset (Freeman) is a seasoned detective who has seen too much of the dark side of the human nature, and while he’s the best in his field he still regrets the many murders that went unpunished. Mills (Pitt) is a passionate and enthusiastic detective who is not aware of how easily the psychopath, John Doe (Spacey), can manipulate his emotions.
Many people may find this movie too graphic for their taste. It however has some very insightful dialogues on the human condition and urban crime in an American metropolitan city, the name of which is not specified in the movie, but appears to be New York.
The name of the film is derived from the seven deadly or cardinal sins according to popular Christian beliefs prevailing in the fourth century AD. They are pride, greed, lust, envy, sloth, wrath and gluttony.
John Doe:…..We see a deadly sin on every street corner, in every home, and we tolerate it. We tolerate it because it’s common, it’s trivial. We tolerate it morning, noon, and night. Well, not anymore. I’m setting the example. What I’ve done is going to be puzzled over and studied and followed… forever.
William Somerset: David. If you kill him, he will win.
William Somerset: I just don’t think I can continue to live in a place that embraces and nurtures apathy as if it was virtue.
David Mills: You’re no different. You’re no better.
William Somerset: I didn’t say I was different or better. I’m not. Hell, I sympathize; I sympathize completely. Apathy is the solution. I mean, it’s easier to lose yourself in drugs than it is to cope with life. It’s easier to steal what you want than it is to earn it. It’s easier to beat a child than it is to raise it. Hell, love costs: it takes effort and work.
John Doe: What sick ridiculous puppets we are / and what gross little stage we dance on / Not a care in the world / Not knowing that we are nothing / We are not what was intended.
Dr. Beardsley: He’s experienced about as much pain and suffering as anyone I’ve encountered, give or take, and he still has Hell to look forward to.
William Somerset: [Reading from one of John Doe’s journals] On the subway today, a man came up to me to start a conversation. He made small talk, a lonely man talking about the weather and other things. I tried to be pleasant and accommodating, but my head hurt from his banality. I almost didn’t notice it had happened, but I suddenly threw up all over him. He was not pleased, and I couldn’t stop laughing.
David Mills: Yeah, a landlord’s dream: a paralyzed tenant with no tongue.
William Somerset: Who pays the rent on time.
William Somerset: But you gotta be a, a hero. You want to be a champion. Well, let me tell you. People don’t want a champion. They want to eat cheeseburgers, play the lotto and watch television.
William Somerset: It’s impressive to see a man feeding off his emotions.
William Somerset: Hemingway once wrote, “The world’s a fine place and worth fighting for.” I agree with the second part.
William Somerset: Gentlemen, gentlemen… I’ll never understand. All these books, a world of knowledge at your fingertips. What do you do? You play poker all night.
Library Guard: Hey! We’ve got culture! We’ve got culture comin’ out our ass!
Library Night Guard: [turns on classical music] How’s this for culture?
Somerset : I wish I still thought the way you do.
Mills : Why don’t you tell me what the hell it is you think we’re doing?
Somerset : Picking up the pieces. We’re collecting all the evidence, taking all the pictures and samples, writing everything down, noting the time things happen.
Mills : That’s all ?
Somerset : That’s all. Putting everything into neat little piles and filing it away on the off chance that it will ever be needed in the courtroom. Picking up diamonds on a deserted island, saving them in case we get rescued.
Mills : Bullshit.
Somerset : Even the most promising clues usually only lead to others. So many corpses roll away unrevenged.
John Doe: People will barely be able to comprehend it, but they won’t be able to deny it.
And finally the classic library scene where Somerset is in the library going through Dante’s Purgatory while Mills is at home, going through the case files and brutally graphic photos of John Doe’s murdered victims. In stark contrast you have the beautiful composition – Bach’s Air on The G String record playing. There is pathos, sadness, violence, anguish and agony of the human condition.