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FAQ for
Se7en (1995) More at IMDbPro »

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FAQ Contents

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags are used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Se7en can be found here.

Two detectives, William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and David Mills (Brad Pitt), search for a serial killer who bases each kill on one of the seven deadly sins.

Se7en is based on a script by American screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker. However, the movie was subsequently novelized by Anthony Bruno and published in 1995.

They are the most deadly vices, according to Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th century. In the order of severity used by Pope Gregory, they are Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride. Lust may be specifically seen as excessive thoughts or desires of a sexual nature, which can manifest as sexual addiction, fornication, adultery, bestiality, rape, perversion, and incest. Gluttony is over-indulgence and over-consumption of anything to the point of waste. Greed (avarice) is the seeking of material gain over spiritual gain. Sloth does not refer to laziness, but to indifference, of an unwillingness to act, an unwillingness to care. Wrath/rage is inordinate and uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger. Envy is jealousy. Pride is seen as the most serious sin, from which all others arise; a love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one's neighbour. There are also Seven Holy Virtues which directly contradict each of the Sins. In parallel order to the sins they oppose, the Seven Holy Virtues are Chastity, Temperance, Charity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, and Humility.

The "Gluttony" victim (Bob Mack) was an unnamed obese man who was forced to eat until his stomach bursts, killing him. The "Greed" victim was Eli Gould (Gene Borkan), a wealthy lawyer. He was purposely bled to death. The "Sloth" victim was Victor (Michael Reid MacKay), a notorious paedophile. He was tied to his bed for an entire year, kept at the brink of survival only through the judicious usage of intravenous drugs and medications, the experience of which causes him untold physical anguish and renders him completely insane. He later dies in a local hospital. Incidentally, he once escaped conviction for raping a minor due to the successful efforts of his lawyer, Eli Gould. The "Lust" victim was a prostitute (Cat Mueller) who was raped and killed by a man forced at gunpoint to use a strap-on dildo with blade attachment. The "Pride" victim was a model (Heidi Schanz) whose nose was cut off, disfiguring her. She was provided with a telephone to call an ambulance, hence living life disfigured and scarred, and sleeping pills to commit suicide and escape the life of disfigurement. She ostensibly chooses the latter option. Envy and wrath are not revealed until the very end of the movie. The "Envy" victim is the story's criminal, John Doe (Kevin Spacey). He wanted a normal family life like Mills had; when Tracy Mills (Gwyneth Paltrow) refused to go along with him, he killed her. Detective Mills is "Wrath"; when John Doe reveals what he has done to Tracy, Mills becomes enraged and shoots John Doe.

First, Gluttony was wearing a shirt, so we couldn't see very well under the table to notice whether or not his abdomen had actually broken open. However, when Somerset and Mills are talking to the coroner a few scenes later and the victim's body is lying on the table, we still don't see any sign that his abdomen had actually split open. The doctor explains to the detectives that the man's inner abdominal wall was what had ruptured. Discussing the homicide later with Mills and their captain, Somerset mentions that Doe had tortured the man by forcing him to eat a huge amount of food and then kicked him in the back, causing the internal rupture. Either the shock from the trauma or internal bleeding killed the man.

The location is purposely not revealed. It's a fictional city of constant rain and urban decay that mirrors the general tone of the film. In an interview with Cinefantastique magazine, however, screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker stated that the primary influence for the film's screenplay came from his time spent in New York City while trying to make it as a screenwriter. "I didn't like my time in New York," he admitted, "but it's true that if I hadn't lived there I probably wouldn't have written Seven." Consequently, it seems fair to presume they live in NYC, as Tracy Mills mentions to Somerset that she and David had lived "upstate", and few other metropolitan areas speak of "upstate" in the same manner as New York. Also, when Mills and Somerset are in a diner, you can see an advertisement for "New York Pizza." The film was shot, however, at several locations in Los Angeles and near Lancaster, CA. You can read about the filming locations here.

John Doe didn't know beforehand. In a scene that doesn't appear in the film, Doe went to her apartment looking to kill her, but she begged and pleaded for him to spare her and her baby. Tracy herself is the one who told him that she was pregnant.

It was Tracy's head. John Doe kills her, fulfilling the sin of envy because he envied Det. Mills' "simple" life. Doe hoped that in turn Mills would then kill him, fulfilling the final sin, wrath (which also makes sure John is punished by death for his sin). Mills is technically not punished by death for his sin, but he is obviously left a broken man (which is probably the life he is 'allowed to live', to which John Doe was referring in the car). Though he's not killed like Doe's other victims, Mills is still a victim because of the long-term psychological effects of the ordeal.

John Doe leads Mills and Somerset out into the middle of nowhere, assuring them that they will be impressed by what they find. Along the way, John defends his actions by saying that he was chosen to turn each sin against the sinner. Mills taunts him by saying that he has delusions of grandeur, but Somerset says very little. Eventually, John announces that they have reached the spot, and the car pulls over near some high-tension electrical wires. They walk back along the road for a few yards until Somerset notices a white van approaching them. While Mills holds John at gunpoint, Somerset meets the van. The driver claims that he was just delivering a package for Detective David Mills. Somerset opens the package and steps back in horror. Meanwhile, John is telling Mills how much he admires him and envies the life he has made for himself, so much that he went to Mills' home that morning and tried to play husband with Tracy. But Tracy wouldn't play along, so he took a souvenir -- Tracy's head. John further explains how Tracy begged for her life and the life of the child inside her then realizes that Mills didn't even know she was pregnant. Somerset tries to get Mills to hand over his gun, but Mills goes crazy and shoots John six times. In the final scene, Mills is seated in the back seat of a squad car. As the car drives away, Somerset says in a voiceover, "Ernest Hemingway once wrote, 'The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.' I agree with the second part."

It may differ from victim to victim, but a significant amount of planning for at least two victims may be assumed. Victor, the third victim (Sloth), was tied to his bed for exactly a year; keeping a person alive and hidden for that amount of time implies an enormous amount of preparation as well as dedication. This suggests that John Doe already selected Victor and began planning his entire work well before he captured him. Doe probably also had his eye on Eli Gould, the second victim (Greed), because he was the one who kept Victor out of jail. These are the only two victims with a clear connection to each other, as the other 3 victims do not appear to be connected. It is possible that Victor and Eli Gould were among the first victims targeted, even though they were not the first two to be found. Indeed, in John's home, several newspaper clippings can be seen on a cupboard that describe Eli Gould defending Victor and getting him an acquittal, so this may have been how John Doe selected them.

Which brings us to the seventh victim. It is reasonable to assume that Mills was selected 'on the spot'. He was recently transfered to homicide, and John Doe could not have known beforehand that Mills would be one of the detectives working on the case. Doe meets up with Mills at the scene of the Sloth murder, and personally experiences Mills' violent temper which would make him the ideal candidate; later, Doe has the opportunity to kill Mills in the alley, but doesn't, probably to preserve him for becoming the seventh victim. It is unknown if Doe had originally intended another person as the Wrath victim before he met Mills, and decided Mills would be the perfect candidate (he can be heard mentioning over the phone that he will be readjusting his schedule); but it makes sense that he intended the seventh victim to be an officer anyway: an officer of the law driven to the point of killing an unarmed suspect would attract a lot of (media) attention, and would ensure that his work would be discussed for years to come.

It is more difficult to determine when the other victims were selected. There is a picture of the fourth victim (Lust) in John's house, which may imply he had his eye on her some time, but without an indication of when it was taken, there is no sure way to tell. When John says that he has to readjust his schedule, it may just mean that he is changing the location of the murders, or his 'headquarters', not the victims per se. He had a special murder weapon created for the Lust victim, and the man he forced to use it on the victim seemed to be a completely random guy, but this does not exclude the possibility that the victim was carefully selected long before that. The same goes for the first (Gluttony) and fifth victim (Pride): they could have been selected shortly before, but given John's meticulous preparations, it is not unthinkable that he had them targeted for some time. Also, John mentions about the Pride victim that she was 'so ugly on the inside [that] she couldn't bear to go on living if she couldn't be beautiful on the outside', implying that he knew her personally, and she wasn't selected shortly before.


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