The director doesn’t want to amaze you, he wants to fool you.

When you think of the directing trademarks of David Fincher, certain things immediately come to mind: a shadowy, almost metallic color scheme, darkness pierced by beams of light so bold they’re practically tangible, unconventional narrative structures, deeply-flawed yet highly-functional characters, specific techniques like tracking shots and single-frame inserts, to name a few. But one trademark you probably don’t think of right off the bat is Fincher’s use of VFX, and the reason you don’t think of it is because Fincher doesn’t want you to.

See, Fincher uses VFX the way a magician uses sleight of hand or a designer uses seams: integrally but mostly unnoticed. The effects of a Fincher film are tucked in folds of narrative, pulling its audience deeper into the story instead of drawing attention to artifice. The best evidence of this? The entire film of Zodiac, which uses subtle VFX to recreate the San Francisco of the late 60s, when the story is set. Or what about the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network, both played by the same actor, Armie Hammer? The truth is, in nearly every Fincher film to date there has been a surreptitious, almost insidious use of VFX, and in the following video essay from Kristian Williams, the blinders are removed and the magician’s secrets are revealed.

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