Zombie Zen

An Analysis of Se7en

Se7en was the best detective film to have come out of the 90s. Unfortunately, most people don’t remember this movie as much as they do David Fincher’s other masterpiece, Fight Club. I just rewatched Se7en on Wednesday, and I made a few interesting revelations about the movie’s symbolism and themes. Take this all with a grain of salt; I’m sure the movie is open to many different interpretations.


I think one of the basic metaphors is that John Doe (Kevin Spacey) is a symbol for the filmmaker. He is “preaching” to the audience the warning against apathy. In John Doe/the filmmaker’s mind, our world has become too full of people accepting evil because it has become so common-place. John Doe says at one point that in order to talk to someone, you must “hit [them] with a sledgehammer”. This is very similar to the overall film’s style: a show of the most memorably terrifying crimes to be put on screen. Se7en’s brutal imagery and clever dialogue illustrate the problems in society with searing unambiguity.

But the solution is not clear. Detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) comes as close to a common man as the filmmaker dares: a mostly silent observer, unable to do anything but “pick up the pieces”. Somerset cares about the people he is with, but is ultimately powerless to help his partner, Detective David Mills (Brad Pitt). Mills serves as a warning as to how ordinary people can commit atrocities through naiveté. But we still don’t have a real hero! Our primary protagonist, Somerset, doesn’t have the answer… or does he?

Somerset ends the film with a haunting quote: “Ernest Hemingway once wrote, ‘The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.’ I agree with the second part.” What I take this to mean is that the solution the film is trying to push is that even though there is evil in the world, that everyone needs to pursue the good in life. There is benevolence in the world, but the abundance of apathy needs to be abolished.

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