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The Zodiac's Wake

Added: Thursday, March 23rd 2023 at 4:53pm by ThePublicDiary

Saw the film Zodiac again recently. It was the second or third time that I’ve viewed it in recent years. It took several viewings for me to determine what, perhaps, the film was trying to convey.

The film was directed by David Fincher (he also directed 1995’s Seven, a fantastic horror-thriller). I don’t believe his intent in Zodiac was the same.

Already familiar with the history of the Zodiac killings, I was disappointed in my initial viewing that there hadn’t been a resolution. But maybe that was the point.

Although the film was well made with excellent performances, I came away dejected. I prefer to be entertained when seeing a movie.

What I came away with, and perhaps this was Fincher’s intent, was the devastation to the lives of the survivors, police, and journalists involved.

A brief synopsis of some of the characters:

  • Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, a cartoonist working for the San Francisco Chronicle, becomes obsessed with the case; the obsession ultimately leads to the dissolution of his marriage.
  • Mark Ruffalo’s character, one of the lead detectives on the case, comes away with an intact marriage but comes under suspicion for sending a fake Zodiac letter. He provides one of the poignant lines in the film when he advises Gyllenhaal’s character, while notifying him of the case’s cold trail, that (paraphrasing), “there have been 200 murders in San Francisco since then…a lot of victims, grief, sorrow and consoling…”
  • Anthony Edward’s character, the other lead detective, lucked out – he transferred out so he could watch his kids grow up.
  • Robert Downey Jr’s character, a reporter for the Chronicle, eventually – ironically – spirals into a permanent state of alcohol and drug abuse.

However, the ending scene is what struck  me the most. The character (forgive me as I am composing from memory) is a disheveled man who appears at a private conference room at the Ontario International Airport for a meeting with a detective in 1991. The detective is there to show him a photo lineup.

The character is a man who survived a brutal knifing attack at a Northern California lake in 1969 at the hands of the Zodiac killer. His girlfriend, with him at the time, did not. The attack scene was early in the film, at a stage in the character’s life when he had his whole life in front of him. Attending college and, I believe, pre-med or law.

In 1991, twenty-two years later, he is a broken man. Not knowing the real-life or character circumstances, it appears his dreams, goals, ambitions – his life – was taken from him by the Zodiac.

I will not mention the name of the suspected killer. He doesn’t deserve consideration.

Speaking for myself, and not Fincher, the film, the case, confirmed for me that there is evil in this world. And it leaves a wake.

Personally, I’m always sympathetic to the victims of crime.

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