Welcome to Postmodern Suburbia, population one.
His character was known simply as “D-Fens,” the name on his personalized automobile license plates. We see only so little of this peculiar man, but along the way, we come to realize with him a lot about ourselves.
The man is Michael Douglas. The story is Falling Down, directed by Joel Shumacher. There are some rather striking similarities with the film Se7en. Although very different movies, there are very like moods and topics. Let’s begin:
Convergence of Talent
Shumacher is set to direct the upcoming 8MM, a macabre tale the likes of Se7en. One Andrew Kevin Walker, a long time cohort of David Fincher, wrote both stories. Walker was also on board with Fincher during The Game, as well as Fincher’s much anticipated Rendezvous with Rama. Game itself (incidentally also starring Douglas) is on the same caliber of social commentary as its predecessors Falling and Se7en.
Convergence of Plot
Here’s were the two stories intertwine. The premise of Falling is an oft-visited one: man against nature. D-Fens is a humble guy who has worked his whole life as an engineer, building missiles for a living. He’s always played by the rules, wary of disturbing the corporate water. He’s a cog in the Great Wheel of capitalism, and it’s begun to wear on him. It’s destroyed his marriage; we see him relieving the stress of his job on his family.
Despite his failed relationships, he is still a member of society — until now. We learn that he has been downsized from his company (“no longer economically viable”). That’s where the film begins.
Welcome to Postmodern Suburbia.
The cheap fast food restaurant, the neo-Nazi, the rich plastic surgeon, and the multi-acred country club golf course are all personified contributions to D-Fens’ silent insanity. D-Fens sees the erosion of his world as a direct attack from the social system of which he so struggled to be a part. Yet, as Falling progresses, we see that there’s much more underlying the hypocrisy and disillusioned, jaded characters. We begin to realize that this is actually man vs. himself.
So too is the story of Se7en. John Doe, the man with no identity, is quietly waging war against the apathy of society. He sees a city of people that are rotting in their own filth, and are too weak to care. Unlike D-Fense, Doe cannot allow himself to become a part of this society. He makes great pains to rid himself of any identifying marks that society would impress upon him (including his own fingerprints). For, Doe believes he is on a mission to “turn each sin against the sinner.” We see again that the stories slowly shift to a man-against-himself scenario. Doe realizes that the penultimate sin is one which he himself commits (Envy). Likewise, D-Fens is a small part of the machine, that which he so loathes. These two characters — in struggling with nature — are warring themselves.
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.
D-Fens: “I’m the bad guy? How did that happen?”
The society we comprise simultaneously imprisons us, if we allow it. It has a way of making us lifeless. We would do good to heed the warnings of John Doe and D-Fens: wake up.