Information and Technology in Zodiac

While watching David Fincher’s Zodiac (2007) there were a few main points that stuck with me. The first was how information is represented in the film. As Robert, Avery, and David all work to uncover the mystery of the Zodiac killer there are varying levels of information available to them. Once the killer starts receiving more intention from the news, hundreds of calls come in to try to give tips to the police. As time goes on they have to work to sift through the countless amounts of unreliable sources in order to find a lead worth chasing. During this time there is a lot going on, making the action harder to follow. The idea of information is brought to the forefront again when the detectives run out of leads. Once the information slows down the excitement of the film slows down as well. To me it seems that this is done on purpose. Fincher subtly uses digital techniques to heighten the realism of the film. However, he doesn’t go overboard with trying to fill the screen with distracting effects. Could Fincher be highlighting these events to make a comment on the use of digital editing in films? How does the amount of visual effects enhance or detract from the quality of a film?

Another idea that Zodiac illustrated was the way the detectives were limited by technology. In one of my favorite scenes of the film the various police departments are trying to work together and share the information they have. Due to their differences in technology, however, they are unable to do so effectively and have to rely on the old technology of mail. Once again it seems as if Fincher is using the plot of the film to send a message about making movies. Are the detectives, and thus filmmakers, too reliant on technology? Or does technology offer the solution to the problems faced by film?

3 comments
  1. I think the film benefitted greatly from the usage of digital editing. The scene where it stuck out most to me was with the time-lapsed construction of the skyscraper. This was an effective and interesting way to show the passage of time without simply fading to black and saying “____ years later”.

    Much like the director, I think the characters of the film could’ve benefitted immensely from technology. The efforts of several of the protagonists are stifled by a lack of efficient means of communication and/or sharing information. These sorts of hurdles no longer exist in the present day, and I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch at all to conclude that the case would’ve likely been solved if it had occurred in 2018.

    I’m sure that procedural aspects of police work and fields of study like handwriting analysis have matured significantly in the time since the Zodiac killings, and I’m sure that the investigations of the killings themselves had a large impact on said maturation. A friend who studies Aerospace frequently reminds me that some of the biggest lessons are learned from the biggest tragedies. Aerospace and police work are wildly different fields, but this adage certainly seems like one thing they may have in common.

  2. I found it interesting how when I first saw this film a year ago, I had no idea that there was any digital effects at all. As it turns out there were a lot of digital effects used in this film. It’s interesting because in film, I typically associate the use of digital effects with the fantastical or the unreal, however, Fincher’s use in Zodiac (2007) is used for something very real, something that actually happened. The use of something that is inherently artificial was used to make this film more real and believable. I think that says a lot about digital technology and where it’s going. It is removed from the “real world” but it is being used to make our world feel more real. This may be just because these forms of technology are more reliable than analog methods, but I’m curious about the line between the digital and the real and where that line is moving and how it’s blurring. I think overall that Fincher is arguing that technology is beneficial in helping us create a more complete picture. In his film, it helps create a more believable narrative and setting, in investigations it can gather more evidence and data and spread that information more easily to help solve cases and construct truth from data. Maybe instead of seeing the digital as a whole other world, we should view it as a part of the real world, just as we view the digital effects in Zodiac.

  3. I also thought it was interesting how the pace and tone of the movie changed with the mood of those in the film. When the Zodiac killings were occurring and various detectives and newspaper editors were sorting through leads and evidence and codes, I was having trouble following the movie and keeping up with the details, just as the detectives were. Similarly, I agree that as the Zodiac stopped communicating and the detectives had fewer leads, the movie became slow and boring on purpose so we could feel what the characters felt.
    In terms of digital editing, I felt that David Fincher was showing that digital editing can be used to enhance the film, both by making the setting more authentic and showing the passage of time, such as when the film showed a sped-up construction of a skyscraper to show how much time had passed. None of these effects were distracting; if had not been thinking about digital editing while I watched the film, I would probably not have even noticed the effects of it. Along those lines, I also felt that Fincher was implying that technology is a benefit; if the police departments had been able to share information quickly and easily and become more organized with details, they may have had a strong lead much sooner. I think he may be implying that film could also benefit from the advances in technology, which has the potential to perfect and control small details.

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