Sunlight dancing on grim faces like painted strokes of flash ridding them of their inherent darkness. Semi lit alleyways and grand gardens illuminated by round luminescence – all enveloped in smoke. Mank carries a trademark of yesteryear and is laced with exquisite cinematography. This re-imagining of Hollywood in the decades ranging from the ’20s to ’40s is a heady mix of creativity, economy, and politics with an obsessive compulsion for detailing.
“Tell the story you know”, utters a drunk alcoholic screenwriter, Herman J. Mankiewicz who is charged for writing the script of the iconic ‘Citizen Kane’. Similar to the creative liberties that have been leveraged during the production of “The Social Network”, David Fincher blurs the lines between reality and fiction while presenting a wide-angle view of the socio-political situation of the era in which this renowned cinema was made.
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The screenplay seems to bounce from one-time frame to another like loose beans in a jar. One may misunderstand the same for messiness, but in fact, it pays homage to the creative distortion in the mind of the gifted yet troubled screenwriter, Mank.
It is self-aware, enigmatically meandering at times but never anything less than charismatic. Although, Mank might feel emotionally distant and difficult at times which is courtesy of the central character who is quite difficult to root for. But the coldness is counteracted with near furious snappily edited intellectual conversations which are at times, evocative of the likes of Aaron Sorkin. Stellar performances from the entire cast led strongly by Gary Oldman as the titular writer and the immersive background score by Trent Reznor soaks us thoroughly into its period setting.
In Mank, David Fincher has concocted a sweeping and swirling ode to tinsel-town, a prestige drama which is to be admired, revered, and respected. While being narratively dense, it is an apex illustration of the transportive quality that cinema holds over the audience.