Critically acclaimed director David Fincher returns from his six-year film directorial hiatus with Mank, an incredibly detail-oriented retelling of the classic Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane. Starring Gary Oldman as Herman J. Mankiewicz, Lily Collins as Rita Alexander, Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies, and Tom Burke as Orson Welles, the movie has an impressionable cast that successfully portrays the behind-the-scenes stories and tensions between people involved in the making of Citizen Kane.
Taking place over several years from 1930 until 1940, Mank covers Herman J. Mankiewicz’s rush to complete the iconic and revolutionary screenplay of Citizen Kane while showing his relationship with Hollywood as an alcoholic.
The primary motivation of Mank is to transport its viewers to the world of the 1940s. Fincher wanted the audience to feel as if they were watching this film in a theatre back in the day. The immaculate attention to detail that Fincher emphasizes in Mank is genuinely incredible. Composers Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor did a great job of creating music that perfectly represents the time frame of the movie by using old microphones and music styles. With phenomenal audio editing and compression techniques, Mank successfully resembles the sound quality from the 1940s motion pictures. The use of black-and-white film rather than colour one adds plenty of historical accuracies, since the colour film had been created by then but was not used often.
Many viewers can miss or overlook the small cue marks decals on the screen, but it is the most valuable detail. Cue marks were used to indicate for the projector rooms operators when it was time to switch the film, so the movie was not interrupted. Adding this small detail emphasizes the idea of the motion picture being shown to an audience in the 1940s. Altogether, the film’s technical aspects resemble those of a 1940s movie.
The film develops the characters and their relationships beautifully, so it feels colossal when tensions rise. At the forefront of Mank’s storyline are personal relations and their authenticity. Creating three-dimensional characters is vital for a biopic. At times, the number of relationships introduced can feel somewhat convoluted, especially when conflicts arise. Avoiding such complexity is something Mank struggles with. With so many details and timeline changes, the film can become confusing.
Mank is the movie that resonates with you long after you finish watching. As a film that is the most David Fincher than Fincher himself can be, Mank is a slow-burn historical biography, but it is a must-see. Fincher’s movies resemble a maze, in which audiences learn details slowly as the film goes on, till the very end. This principle is clearly illustrated in Mank. Those who know well the behind-the-scenes story of the Orson Welles’ drama creation will learn that it is just a side story in the film. This movie should be viewed after Citizen Kane to avoid large spoilers in the classics. Mank is one of those films that some viewers will appreciate more than the others, but all in all, it is meant to transport you to the 1940s.
Here’s The Rundown
Gary Oldman: Arguably, Herman Mankiewicz is not his best role, but Oldman’s performance is amazing nonetheless. He was able to get into the mind of his character, which in a biopic can be a difficult task to do. There are no moments where the actor falls short on his performance throughout the film.
Costumes: Although there was no colour in the film, the costume designs were still great! They felt natural to the characters, as if those costumes were, in fact, what each person would wear back then. They did not feel over-the-top or underwhelming; it seemed like each costume was specially designed for the character.
The Feel of the Movie: If you have ever wondered what it is like to watch a film in theatres when film production was still fairly new, Mank is the perfect motion picture to watch. The exceptional attention to detail creates a footage that feels as if it was found and restored in the basement of an archives building, just like Fincher intended.
Attention to Detail: There is an immense attention to detail. The most notable feature is the cue marks that appear every few scenes for the “film to be changed in the projection room.” This small detail, which can be easily overlooked, makes a huge impact, since it achieves the main objective: to transport the viewer to the 1940s.