The meaning of the film “The Game” (1997) and its ending: analysis of Fincher’s thriller, deciphering the plot

A Whole Life “The Game”: David Fincher’s Reality TV Prophecy

Genre: Thriller, Adventure, Drama

Year of production: 1997

Director: David Fincher

Actors: Michael Douglas, Deborah Kara Unger, Sean Penn, Peter Donat, James Rebhorn and others.

David Fincher is a famous director. Several of his creations are included in the top 100 of Kinopoisk and other sites dedicated to cinema. The film “The Game” is one of them. When this thriller was released at the end of the last century, not all viewers and critics appreciated it, the reviews were rather restrained. But over time, both the meaning of the film “The Game” and the subtleties of the production itself began to be perceived by many differently and with great enthusiasm.

What is the movie about

Nicholas Van Orton is a wealthy banker. He is also boring and not the most pleasant person to talk to. Divorced from his wife and estranged from his younger brother Conrad, he was left alone. His life is a continuous routine, he is interested in little other than finances. True, on the eve of the 48th birthday, Nicholas is increasingly concerned about the memories of his father, who committed suicide at the same age.

Conrad makes an appointment with Nicholas at a restaurant and gives him a gift – a certificate for a certain “game”. What is its meaning is completely incomprehensible – no one gives clear explanations. But after some thought and an enthusiastic mention of her colleagues, the hero agrees to participate. He undergoes lengthy medical and psychological testing, after which, for unknown reasons, a refusal comes.

Conrad gives Nicholas a certificateConrad gives Nicholas a certificate for the game. Starring Sean Penn and Michael Douglas. Frame from the film.

But soon a whole chain of strange, frightening and clearly non-random events is launched. Nicholas understands that now his life is a dangerous game, very skillfully orchestrated. The hero is deprived of all his savings, he, it seems, miraculously remains alive and is going to take revenge on the offenders. But it turns out that the organization of the game is nothing less than brilliant. Everything was thought out to the smallest detail, the directors foresaw every step of Nicholas.

Even the fact that at the end he accidentally shoots his own brother and how his father jumps from the roof of a skyscraper. The hero is rescued with a safety cushion. It turns out that Konrad is alive, and all that happened was a performance. Nicholas is congratulated on his birthday by the participants of the action, who are absolutely everyone who has met him since the start of the game. This expensive event, as promised, changed Nicholas’ life – having experienced catharsis, he became a different person.

Plot transcript

“The Game” turned out to be almost a visionary work. Some new, hidden meaning is not revealed in it, but over time we can draw more parallels with modern life. If at the end of the 90s the concept of the film seemed fantastic (some even called it mystical), then taking into account the development of modern technologies, it is already much easier for us to imagine the organization of such a game at the same high level.

clown from the gameFrame from the film.

So, for example, the scheme of stealing money, when the victim, like Nikolos, herself calls the scammers a code word, is quite common today. Modern quests and role-playing games are also sometimes amazing. With the help of electronic means, one can practically “hack” a person’s private life. Social networks and search engines already know a lot about us. Even the well-coordinated actions of the actors and the safety of the jump from the skyscraper and other events do not seem so incredible now.

To understand the meaning that the director was trying to convey to us, it is worth thinking a little about David Fincher himself. Unlike many of his colleagues, he rarely combines his work with the work of a screenwriter, being primarily a director. Fincher’s skill is that, almost without changing the script, with the help of small details and the general atmosphere, he brings his vision. And in value it can even surpass the original idea. So, for example, it happened with the adaptation of the book “Fight Club”, when even the writer Chuck Palahniuk himself and his fans said that the film went much deeper, although Fincher was entirely repelled from the plot of the original.

It’s the same story with this movie. If you look at it, the scenario is quite simple: the hero is thrown out of the ordinary and dragged into a maelstrom of dangerous events – it turns out that it was all a planned extreme game. But Fincher creates his own unique cold neo-noir atmosphere, making the narrative both dynamic and gloomy. He carefully works on every frame.

As a result, even, perhaps, guessing about the ending, we experience a shock in the final. At the same time, the viewer does not have to collect meaning from scattered grains, hints, as is the case in some puzzle films. The bottom line is different: as a result, a picture is formed with more artistic than logical value. Although there is no doubt about the presence of the second one either.

Nicholas Van OrtonFrame from the film.

Fincher’s direction is inspired by the films of Alfred Hitchcock and other classics of the American noir thriller (one of the most striking scenes in their style is the episode with the poisoning of Christina Nicholas by Christina). The “game” is also “hero-centric”, centered around one character who does not save the world and is not immersed in sensual torment. He solves a specific problem – trying to survive and expose the alleged villains.

It is striking that the main character is depicted as a rather unpleasant type. Unlike many films where the character undergoes psychological changes and becomes more likable towards the end towards the end, we don’t like Nicholas much more at the end of The Game than at the beginning.

The director made the character so intentionally. He obviously wanted us, not particularly sympathetic to the character and not psychologically attached to him, still worried about the events taking place on the screen. What could be the explanation for this? It looks like Fincher was aiming to show us some kind of reality show.

Participants in such programs also, as a rule, do not cause sympathy, and sometimes they are frankly disgusting personalities. The interest of the viewer in this case is focused on what is happening. He enjoys the feeling of spying on someone else’s life more than anything else. We “spy” on the characters in almost any movie – it’s just that Fincher in The Game emphasized this.

“The Game” in this sense echoes another cult film “The Truman Show”, released a year later. It also turns out that only the main character is real. Everyone else in his world is an actor, each performing a scripted task. And if Truman makes a strong-willed act to get out of the show, then Nicholas Van Orton is a passive character. Not in the plan of action, but in the extent to which these actions break the system built around him. In fact, not how much: whatever Nicholas does, it is provided for by the script. He is just a visitor to a grandiose attraction, not endowed with the opportunity to somehow influence the events prepared in advance.

In this, Nicholas is like us, the audience watching the film. Being in the cinema, we are not able to change the script. We are watching the events and this spectacle eventually subtly changes something in us. When we leave the cinema, we become a little different.

The meaning of the ending

It can hardly be said that the meaning of the ending of the film “The Game” is of some hidden nature. Everything, one might say, is on the surface: the hero has gone through “fire and water” – he has changed.

But is it that strong? We were not shown colossal transformations. Yes, Nicholas is obviously dumbfounded and will rethink a lot. He even decided to run away from the party to take Christina to a new game. But somehow it’s too weak to be called the rebirth of the character.

When analyzing the film, many criticize the ending and the whole film for this, saying that after a couple of weeks, Nicholas will again become the same boring and uninteresting “man of habit” that he was.

It is unlikely that it would be difficult for the writers or the director to show really significant changes in the character and behavior of the character. Everything suggests that this was how it was intended: there should not be any rebirth. If acting in a film, as conceived by the creators, is associated with a spectacle in a cinema, then we, as spectators, do not change one hundred and eighty degrees. The effect of a good book, musical composition or movie is. But it is like a spark that we can keep in ourselves and do something more thanks to it, or safely forget it, once again plunging into a routine.

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