Fincher’s “Mank” on Netflix: glamor and cynicism of the early dream factory


Due to the pandemic, “Mank” is not going to the cinema as planned. Instead, the film about the alleged “Citizen Kane” screenwriter Mankiewicz is now available on Netflix. And he paints an exciting black and white picture of the 1930s in Hollywood.

With films like “Fight Club” and “Sieben”, director David Fincher wrote film history in the 1990s and recently brought even more interesting sights to the cinemas with “The Social Network” and “Gone Girl”. The Netflix series “Mindhunter” he directed was also a huge success. Now the streaming service has enabled him to implement a project that has long been close to his heart. “Mank” deals with the genesis of the cult film “Citizen Kane” at the end of the 1930s.

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Orson Welles was the director, producer and leading actor of the film at the time. He also officially wrote the story about the power-hungry newspaper tycoon Kane. However, a man named Herman J. Mankiewicz was instrumental in the script and got an Oscar for it in 1942 with Welles. Fincher’s new work “Mank” now revolves around him, a brilliant drunkard.

Between reality and fiction

Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) is banished to a house in the Mojave Desert for his runaway alcohol consumption to keep him away from high-proof temptations. Instead, he should focus on the script for Orson Welles’ (Tom Burke) directorial debut. He has an extremely narrow 60 days for this and is supported by the British typist Rita (Lilly Collins) and the German nurse Freda (Monika Gossmann). Because Mank is injured after a fall and relies on crutches, which doesn’t make his life any more comfortable.

Even his brother Joe (Tom Pelphrey) warns Mank about the project, for which Welles demands he should do his work without naming his name. In addition, the fear of his relatives is great that the uncomfortable Mank will make unpleasant enemies. Because the role model for Citizen Kane is the influential media mogul William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance) – nobody you want to turn against you. However, he seems to be very impressed by the weird creative. And Mank also befriends Hearst’s best friend, actress Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried). In the end, the dispute over the rights to the story plays only a minor role in the film.

Screenplay written by Father Fincher

Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried) and Mank (Gary Oldman) meet on the set of a period film.

(Foto: Netflix)

The screenplay for “Mank” was written by David Fincher’s father Jack, a journalist who died in 2003 and now unfortunately can no longer see the implementation of his story. Because he’s missing something, that’s for sure. “Citizen Kane” was Jack Fincher’s favorite film. After his retirement he developed the material for “Mank” over several years. It was not implemented for a long time, even if David Fincher tried it more often. In the end, the studios kept pulling back. And so it is thanks to Netzflix that the film still reaches its audience. And similar to Martin Scorseces “The Irishman”, the Swedish streaming giant Fincher should have given a free hand. The viewer does not expect classic cinema material here.

“Mank” is both a homage and a cynical image of the early Hollywood dream factory. The scenes and flashbacks are initiated by typed script instructions. Passages from “Citizen Kane” are quoted, and so the film is an absolute highlight, especially for true cineastes. Those who really know their way around film history and pay close attention will discover numerous big names and allusions to other films from the era. But everyone else also gets their money’s worth with “Mank”. Sometimes crackling black-and-white pictures and a staging in the style of the old classics, outstanding equipment, pointed dialogues and above all a fantastic Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried as a great female figure ensure exciting and entertaining 132 minutes of film pleasure.

“Mank” will be available on Netflix on December 4th.

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