Review: Mindhunter (S01, 2017)

I would kill for you.

by Iñaki Oñate

Jeffrey Dahmer used to chop up his victims and put them in his refrigerator, right next to a tupper filled with waldorf salad. Why did he commit such horrible acts of psychotic rage? His victims were also his lovers: he would kill them in order to posses them forever. Killing them and cutting them into pieces was a way to ensure that they wouldn’t leave him or break his heart.There is a certain kind of attraction and fascination towards serial killers in American culture. Their history is filled with them and they tend to become pop figures, movie subjects, best seller books and in this case a Netflix original series.

Mindhunter fictionalizes the days in which criminal psychology was far from a reality and tells the story of the creation of a very peculiar division: rookie FBI Agent Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and old hand Agent Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) embark on a mission to record testimonies of serial killers in order to establish patterns and structures that shine a light in how to predict or prevent future crimes of pathological nature. A third party eventually joins them in order to help decipher the semantics of the assasins, one Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv).

This is a series about language as the path that may take you to the core of the soul of a sinister and evil human being. It’s also a series that reflects on the philosophical problem of good and evil or more specifically about the origins of evil. It’s crucial when you start getting into the world of Mindhunter to remember the iconic quid pro quo relationship between Special Agent Clarice Starling and Dr. Hannibal Lecter, of Silence of the Lamps (1991) notoriety.

Agent Holden Ford is actually based on John E. Douglas, a real FBI agent and one of the pioneers in criminal profiling, who also served as the inspiration for the character of Jack Crawford in the novels by Thomas Harris and their subsecuent film adaptations. Along with Mark Olshaker (Holt McCallany’s character), Douglas wrote the book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI Elite Serial Crime Unit, which serves as the cornerstone of the show.

One particular name among the scores of producers and directors of the ten episodes that make up season one is without a question the main creative force behind the making of it: David Fincher. The color, the framing, the musical selection of popular songs from the seventies and more importantly the mise en scene of the dialogues between the killers and the agents. Again, this is a series about conversations, about language, and it requires a certain intelligence regarding the tension you can create through the cinematic alchemy in a scene where a madman describes how he commited a murder (no flashbacks needed). The audiovisual grammar of the series makes you want to rewatch a crime drama classic such as Zodiac (2007) or the Hitchcockian thriller Gone Girl (2014).

This is certainly a sharp series intended for sharp minds and crime
movie lovers. Let’s hope it stays that way.


IñaIñaki Oñate / Writer (Quito, Ecuador – 1988) Iñaki resides in Buenos Aires, where he studied film directing at Universidad del Cine. His short films have been part of the official selection at the New York, La Habana and Cannes festivals.  He’s currently developing his first feature film with his own independent production company, Undergofilms. He also works in music and art illustration.

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