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Last Updated: May 20, 2007 - 10:48:48 AM
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Thriller 'Zodiac' tells story of people's obsession
May 18, 2007 - 11:04:34 AM
Like the other cast members of Zodiac, Gyllenhaal spent sometime with the real Graysmith before shooting started on the film.

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[RxPG] Cannes, May 18 - American director David Fincher's 'Zodiac', screened at the Cannes Film Festival and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, is a movie about obsession.

In this case, obsession with a serial killer, who terrorized the San Francisco area during the 1960s and 1970s, taunting the police and the media in a series of letters and sending them mind-boggling codes, but which once broken could identify him.

He likes, he wrote in one letter, 'needling the blue pigs.'

'Zodiac' is also a movie about another era - before watertight DNA testing, before mobile phones and when handwriting experts ruled.

It was also long before the Internet, email and blogging and when newspapers still played a central role in city life. Communications were through the post. One police office did not have a fax machine.

Speaking at a press conference, Fincher said he did not want to make a movie that was a pastiche of the 1970s. 'It was not the summer of love,' he said. 'We were very conscious that it was not going to be Starsky and Hutch.'

Indeed, 'Zodiac' has something of a contemporary feel. While it was careful not to dwell on mass hysteria the film paints a picture of a threat to a city, which could occur at any time.

'It was a very real thing when I was a seven year old,' said Fincher who grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. 'It is a form of terrorism,' he said.

The killer claimed about 13 lives. The case is still open.

'It is a movie about the unknown. I don't know what is more interesting than the unknown,' said Gyllenhaal, who plays a self-effacing cartoonist, Robert Graysmith, working at the San Francisco Chronicle and who develops an obsession with the case.

'I need to look him in the eyes,' the Graysmith character tells his wife as their marriage starts to founder as a result of his obsession with the case. Both in real life and in the movie, Graysmith went on to write about Zodiac.

His pursuit of the Zodiac story essentially destroyed his life. The same was true of the characters in the film, including one of the leading detectives working on the case, David Toschi, played by Mark Ruffalo.

Even one of the writers of the film's script, James Vanderbilt, admitted that the Zodiac story had played on his mind since he was a teenager.

'I have been obsessed with this since I was 15 and loved the idea of a cartoonist going after a serial killer,' Vanderbilt told the press conference in Cannes.

Like the other cast members of Zodiac, Gyllenhaal spent sometime with the real Graysmith before shooting started on the film.

'He destroyed his life, in the pursuit of something without a clear reason,' Gyllenhaal said.

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