Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Sociopathic Network

David Fincher's The Social Network paints a cynical, foreboding, and above all else compelling portrait of contemporary youth culture. The film depicts the beginnings of Facebook, the internationally successful social networking website that has redefined how people interact both on– and offline. Set in the first decade of the 21st century, The Social Network examines how the advent of the Internet as a dominant social force empowers able young minds in the face of traditional institutions of privilege. The result is a power struggle between the new generation and the old order for control of the future, and the casualties include friendship, honour, and morality.

In The Social Network, Facebook’s origins are told via flashbacks as details are recounted during lawsuit depositions. From the beginning the website’s co-creator, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), is shown alone and on the defence against friend and foe alike. On one hand he faces accusations of intellectual property theft from the over-privileged Winklevoss twins (both played by Arnie Hammer). At the same time Zuckerberg fights a legal battle with his one-time best friend and co-founder of Facebook, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). Right from the start we know that while the website is successful it destroys the relationships of everyone involved in its creation. The Social Network explores what makes the website such an intoxicating and destructive force.

Facebook is depicted as an unprecedented source of social power, the ultimate commodity of youth. Zuckerberg sees the potential to attain status among his university peers and stoops to any means necessary to achieve it. As Napster co-creator Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) says, “This is our time,” in reference to the young innovators who have the knowledge to reshape the world using the Internet. Those with no established privilege suddenly have the opportunity to overthrow the social hierarchy, and the proposition is too great to let anything like morality stand in its way. Zuckerberg steals from the Winklevosses and cheats Saverin to create something new and cool, and all the while we know of the legal battles that result from his behavior. The Social Network shows how our contemporary social landscape was formed while giving the poignant sense that something was irreversibly lost in the process.

The brilliant soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross perfectly captures the sense of dread that pervades The Social Network. The opening track, “Hand Covers Bruise,” uses dour, resonating bass notes set against a delicate piano and hair-raising strings to initiate a sense of innocence and impending doom. The central thematic conflict is reflected in the soundtrack as rising electronic beats demonstrate the excitement of the young programmers achieving social dominance. Meanwhile a nightmarish industrial take on Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” evokes the failure of the old order. Not since There Will Be Blood has there been such an original, evocative, and atmospheric motion picture soundtrack.

The Social Network is a captivating film that paints an extremely cynical portrait of the people behind Facebook. None of the characters are depicted positively but none are cast as complete villains either. Instead they all look like victims of a general lack of conscience and foresight. The movie could be worth seeing for the soundtrack alone, but in context it makes an already great film spectacular. Don't miss The Social Network, easily one of the best films of 2010. 

Check out these sites for more reviews. Click here to download a five track EP of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross's incredible soundtrack to the film.

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