First up let’s talk about how clever this poster is. The tag line simultaneously comments on the film and hints at what is to come, whilst the wonderful look of Nick’s back being glitched by the news could be seen as a social comment as well as a part of the film. The barely noticeable water, spreading out at the bottom suggests not only a place for murder but also reflection, two sides, the disparity between above water and under water. Instead of choosing to focus on the big names of David Fincher, Ben Affleck or Rosamund Pike the poster tells us information, drops hints, genuinely intrigues us with its content.
Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) returns home on his third wedding anniversary to find his wife missing. Aided by the police and a community swept along by the disappearance of an innocent woman, he heads up a search for Amy (Rosamund Pike), the inspiration for the Amazing Amy books written by her parents and like Nick a writer hit by the recession. As the search for Amy goes on, more and more elements of their marriage are revealed until it soon becomes clear that any preconceptions held at the beginning of this mystery are…gone.
Adapting novels to film is a long established mode of film making. From classics like David Lean’s Great Expectations to big franchises such as Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, adapting the written word to visual form is commonplace but not something that is necessarily always done well, particularly with novels superbly successful in recent years. Last year I, like millions of others, read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and was instantly absorbed by its tricky plot and mysterious characters. However the book seemed to me to be utterly in its own world, and when it was announced that it would be adapted into a film by Flynn herself and directed by The Social Network’s David Fincher I was at least a little wary. The book itself is pretty hefty in size and often these kinds of novels, with intricate plot detail and switching perspectives can have trouble translating to film, as some directors struggle to wheedle out what is most important – as was often the case with the Harry Potter films. Although a huge fan I can’t deny that I, like every other fan I know, would leave the cinema with some complaint or other about what was left out, neglected, sidelined, all of which changed the dynamic of the film. But this was not the case with Gone Girl.
The element of Gone Girl’s transition from book to film that struck me most was how the internal portions of the book were made visual and genuinely interesting, and how although some elements were left out or skimmed over, the film felt the better for it, not that it suffered. Gone Girl is so singularly hard to write about without spoiling, but a lot of the film’s strength comes from Flynn’s ability to self edit into a new medium. Last month saw another film move from page to screen, Before I Go to Sleep, something which cleverly adapted the verbal use of a diary to the more visual video log. However Before I Go to Sleep failed to have a very cinematic feel, and I personally felt that although I enjoyed it, this was because it was my first experience of the story itself, and this was what interested me. However this was not the case in Gone Girl, as even the visuals of Amy writing in her diary tells us important information, that develops how we feel about the characters. As someone who has read the book and knew exactly what twists and turns were to take place throughout the films 150 minute run time, I was still shocked and experiencing the emotions of the film as if the content was entirely new to me.
Rosamund Pike gives such a strong performance that I truly believe no one else could have played Amy Dunne. Ben Affleck’s indefinable charm works to his advantage as no doubt does the varying public opinion about him – many of my friends decried the film before even seeing it, as they don’t like him as an actor. But the pair’s strange magnetism sparkles on screen as they appear to be constantly moving in orbit of one another. There are wonderful performances from the supporting cast as well, from Nick’s angry sister Margo (Carrie Coon), the sharp lawyer Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry) and the wry cop in charge of the case Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens). In fact it is these characters that contribute to make the film something I never expected it to be – funny. The audience I saw it with (at the rather excellent Peckham Plex) laughed at the ironies, the ridiculousness of the plot, the troubles of the characters in a way that showed them to be truly engaging with the story. Maybe it’s because it was my first viewing of a film in a London public cinema but I can’t remember the last time I saw a film with an audience that got a film as much as this one did. It certainly added to my enjoyment of the film and made me see it in a different light, as though I was viewing it from my own perspective as well as a public perspective.
From the moment I saw the trailer for Gone Girl I knew it would be a different kind of film. David Fincher’s direction seems to wring the characters out in front of our very eyes, until the shape they existed in at the beginning of the film is unrecognisable. For me personally, what makes a film special is how it uses its characters to tell the story, and this is certainly true of this warped view of marriage. The perfect combination of all of the elements of film making come together in this powerful thriller, which certainly thrilled me.
On a side note, this is the song from the trailer, and I know that from now until forever whenever I hear it I will think of the candles lit for missing Amy, the tension building in the relationship, that image of Rosamund Pike floating away in the water. This is one of my favourite things about music used in film, the way in which hearing a certain group of chords and words can transport your mind back to the feelings you had whilst watching it play over a film you were engrossed in.