A video illustrating how much David Fincher used the 'insert shot' on Zodiac has just dropped online. The video, from Josh Forrest, is a very impressive compilation of all the insert shots in the movie.
Take from it what you will.
Check it out below:
The 'insert shot' is like a 'cutaway' except that it usually always involves objects rather than people. It gives attention to the detail of the objects of the film as well as the drama. It can be used in many ways.
Fincher uses it in three.
1. The Point of View
On numerous occasions throughout the film we see Jake Gyllenhaal's character looking at evidence, puzzles and writing down his own thoughts. This, in essence, presents to you what his character is seeing in an attempt to convey his thought process as he breaks down the evidence.
Conversely it also gets you into the mind of the killer. Though this movie usually had his action away from his point of view, side on, in order to create the atmosphere of distance and foreboding that both we and the police feel.
As in Seven, the point of view in this film is illustrated to show a duality in the skill that the killer has, as well as the police officers.
2. Showing the Audience the Evidence
While this is similar to the first technique, it isn't the same. We, as the audience get shown the evidence but not always the evidence that the character is looking at. This is a very popular technique in the cop genre because, in ways, we as an audience can become as much a part of the detection process as our protagonist and might spot something a lot earlier than them. It also makes for some cool Easter Eggs and it's as though the killer in the movie has fooled you to - thus helping you get into the mind of the detective.
Also we, as an audience, get to see the killer's room via inserts, which makes us privet to even more evidence and psychological perspectives than the detectives.
This is also used in con artist movies like Oceans Eleven and The Sting.
3. Kinetic Cutting
While keeping us up to date with the information and dates of evidence in the piece, the insert shot can be used for kinetic cuts where a string of movements or actions are cut together to make one sequence crash into the next, a very common technique used by Martin Scorsese for example.
In this sequence, as the camera gets closer, these shots begin to jump cut into the next, while still being the same angle, it is used to speed up pace and to draw attention to the details that perhaps the police will pick up on. Thus showing us what police will consider as evidence.
Also, again, a technique that is used in the Oceans movies, most especially when the con set-piece is taking place like in Ocean's Thirteen.
This, however, is not the only time Fincher has used the 'insert shot'. Being a regular to the crime genre - and how useful and fitting an 'insert' works with crime - Fincher's entire opening sequence to Seven is insert shots, albeit stylized with overlays.
Check it out below: