The Social Network
It begins in midsentence purposefully to place the audience at a distinct and instantly-recognizable disadvantage. Two young people are conversing in a bar, talking to cross-purposes, rapidly, and almost inaudibly because the background music and ambient noise drowns out the viewer’s perception of the content of their conversation. Lipreading in this context is a far superior skill to subtitlereading, because much of this conversation is nonverbal/unpredictable, and the viewer’s eyes need to be locked on the faces of Mark Zuckerberg and Erika Albright as their relationship disintegrates in the perilous course of this white-water conversation.
The midsentence, crash of a midrelationship constitutes a wonderful device created/employed by Aaron Sorkin to force the audience to pay attention. The smothering of voices in background sound extends the device to the point of exasperation with (and at) the very start of the film – but not to the extent that I wanted to stop the DVD and turn to something/anything else. In fact, I played the first three minutes four times; straight, with subtitles, fiddling with a couple of sound control panels…and eventually I quit trying to defeat the sound design. I simply paid more attention, and found the investment sufficiently rewarding to keep on keeping on.
Ultimately, I found it to be a wonderfully engaging film packed to bursting with very smart, attractive people saying and doing smart, interesting things from the moment it starts to the moment it ends. And fuck them, each and every one, including the chicken.
Next morning: This film is subtly and strikingly reminiscient of Flowers for Algernon and Amadeus in revealing the sharply contrasting (de)valuation of people; turds/nuggets, celebrity/negligence — strongly implying a desperate cultural need for universal forgiveness and boundless, groundless loyalty within and beyond the permeable boundaries of species; refresh…refresh…refresh.
Three days later: Fincher’s commentary approaches conclusion with the story of a French journalist who passionately objected to the failure of the principle participants in the film to actively collaborate with Zuckerberg, the living human on whose life the story is based.
Fincher responded by asking the critic WHAT that kind of consultation would have bought the project, in that the humaneness clearly lacking/muted in Mark at the start of the film is also clearly evidenced as present, robust and growing at the conclusion of the film. It’s an interesting response that strikes me as evasive. I also think that Zuckerberg has been treated by The Social Network enterprise very much as Eduardo Saverin was treated by the Facebook enterprise, according to the film; the value of his stake was enormously diluted in the course of an incidental/accidental betrayal and exclusion.
Ironically, a brilliant but asocial computer artist invents an amazingly powerful social network tool and grows a recognizable conscience in the course of its prosecution. I think collaboration with Mark Zuckerberg might have made The Social Network a far more important film tha it is, but the one we got is brilliant.