David Fincher’s Mank is an unapologetic love-letter to old Hollywood. While the film is a biopic about Herman Mankiewicz, its style is less documentary-like and more stylized. Visually, the film borrows from old classics of the 30s and 40s. Written by Jack Fincher, the screenplay also contains dialogue reminiscent of the classics it mimics. Overall, fans of Golden-Age Hollywood films will have a lot to feast on in Mank.
Looking Like a Classic
The first thing you notice while watching Mank is the film’s striking visuals. The quality of the black and white imagery is more than a simple filter. The quality of the images and the superb lighting give an atmosphere that fits right in with films of old Hollywood. Shadows create a personal and somewhat noir-like quality to every frame. Overall, the film looks like it belongs in the 30s.
Mank also features some classic cinematography. For instance, many scenes play out from left to right. Characters utilize the sides of the frame. The film also features a lot of static shots, which were a common technique in studio-era Hollywood. It’s not all borrowed cinematography, though. The film does an excellent job of intermixing more modern cinematography with classic styles. It makes for interesting visuals that nod to the past.
Talking Like the Talkies
David Fincher’s father, Jack, penned the screenplay for Mank years before production started. Anyone familiar with Hollywood’s golden age dialogue will recognize the same quick cadence and flourishing nature of the Fincher’s script. The film’s dialogue also seems less realistic and more stylized to mimic those classic films. It’s as if Mankiewicz crafted the screenplay for his own biopic. Due to the lack of visual effects or elaborate action sequences, films of the era often relied on dense and witty dialogue. This film also relies on those same elements. Whether it succeeds or not is another topic altogether.
Ultimately, Mank offer’s a nostalgic throwback to old Hollywood classics.