Zodiac ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

"This is the way the world ends/this is the way the world ends/this is the way the world ends/Not with a bang, but a whimper." T.S. Elliot

In 1968 Sheriff Art Schley died of heart failure while waiting to testify in the trial of Ed Gein. Many who knew Schley said that he was traumatized by Gein’s crimes and the fear about testifying caused his death. One person made the statement: “He was a victim of Ed Gein as surely as if he had butchered him.”

Even though we are witness to sequences of violence in Zodiac, the film is never about these up-close displays of violence, rather how violence spreads like a disease. Who comes into contact with it, and who ends up suffering a sort of ‘death’ or all-consumption by it?

Zodiac figures violence as an illness. If you think about how society responds to threats of violence and threats of illness the response is much the same – curfews/quarantines/radio warnings/empty streets/the eventual fading out of events from collective consciousness – the world forgets, except for those who were close to death.

Fincher’s focus on all of the above images figures Zodiac into an almost apocalyptic feeling film. Illness is perhaps the greatest metaphor for the spread of violence and subsequently the spread of trauma. What gets left of those who come into contact with it? And even once we seemingly “beat” it, what new illness/virus lays in wait?

The final scene of Jake Gyllenhaal in Zodiac is of him walking into a hardware store, the most mundane setting. Meeting a man who on the outset appears mundane, normal, ordinary, boring. Through his entire journey in the film we are led through the mundane – movie theaters, restaurants, work offices, bars. Meeting the ordinary – poster designers, co-workers, girlfriends, kids.

Everyone wants to focus on how the world ends, but Fincher focuses on how the end begins. The apocalypse begins, not with a bang but with the mundane. With the ordinary transformed by those who enter into contact with it.

A woman picks up a letter at work. This is how the end begins.
A man reads that letter. This is how the end begins.
A country reads that letter. This is how the end begins.

Not with the bang of the gun, but with the whimper of those who hear it.

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