This week I took in The Social Network – the movie. I give it a rave for four main reasons: acting, pacing of the editing, writing, and social commentary. The movie reminds us how fast and furiously the times are-a-changing as it turns the recent emergence of Facebook into instant history. And his story; the tale of the intellectually (and now financially) well endowed Mark Zuckerberg. At 19, while at Harvard, he created this new institution cum communication device that so many of us scoff at yet jump on every day.
Why the praise?
It’s always wonderful to see a character-driven movie, especially one about a brilliant but impatient, imperious, socially inept and off putting character: Main character Zuckerberg, as acted by Jesse Eisenberg, who invents friending, is, by the end of the movie, friendless. Zuckerberg’s friend, Eduardo Savarin, played by Andrew Garfield, serves as the film’s conscience. Even as he sues, doubts, and distrusts Mark, Eduardo wants to believe him.
It’s a tribute to Aaron Sorkin’s script that all the major characters are complex – sympathetic and not so sympathetic and ultimately human. Even the minor characters – which include all the female characters – are complex except for the party girls and boys. I liked the woman who when flamed online by Zuckerberg, does not let him off the hook; if only Zuckerberg could figure out to apologize, he might stand a chance.
No ordinary flick
In keeping with the latest social, technological trends, the film (guess we should drop that term) was shot digitally on a RED camera, actually two to three cameras for each scene.
This picture is also unique because it is driven by dialog. Unbelievable but true, especially in a male-centered film. The action scenes, such as the crew race, are puffery and lead to the weighty action scenes as opposed to the typical action film where the dialog is poor and serves as set-up for the heavy duty action sequence. The scenes are taut, the characters interesting (men only, except for one woman), and the dialog and yes, social interactions move it along.
I always remember what Carol Littleton, A.C.E., (The Other Boleyn Girl, Tuesdays with Morrie, ET and many more), once said: “One-to-one dialogue scenes are difficult because it’s literally about the very thin connection between two people and that connection can’t be violated. You have to be aware of it all the time. They may be connecting or not connecting emotionally, but you have to be aware of what’s happening between them the whole time.”
In the last post I talked about the power in actors’ eyes: Notice the intensity in Eisenberg’s.
Angus Wall, half of the pair of editors on The Social Network along with Kirk Baxter, says in an interview by Oliver Peters(who pens Digital Post, a helpful, technical editing blog), “From the start, Kirk and I cut the scenes very tightly, using faster performances and generally keeping the pace of the film high. When the first assembly was completed, we were at a length of 1 hour 55 minutes – actually a minute shorter than the final version. Unlike most films, we were able to relax the pace and put some air back into the performances during the fine cut.”
However, in reading Peters’ interview, I found out there was more to creating the movie than being deft at dialogue and story.
Yes. According to Baxter, who edited The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, “there are about 1000 effects in The Social Network.” Two major characters, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, are identical twins played by two different actors. Baxter reports that the movie “has a lot of digital matte paintings, but there is also face replacement much like in Button…there are two characters who are twins, but in fact the actors aren’t, so a similar process was used to turn one of the actors into the twin of the other. Although the story isn’t driven by the same sort of visual effect, like the aging technique that was a dramatic device in Benjamin Button, it still has a lot of effects work.”
Editor as magician
Did you notice the room switch? Baxter reveals the The Social Network, “was very well scripted and directed, so not a lot of storytelling issues had to be resolved in the edit. In fact, there were a number of scenes that were great fun to put together. For example, there’s an early scene about some of the legal depositions. It takes place in two different boardrooms at different times and locations, but the scene is intercut as if it is one continuous conversation. David [Fincher, the director] gave us lots of coverage, so it was a real joy to solve the puzzle, matching eyelines and so on.”
Wall gives his and Baxter’s point of view: “This is a movie about the birth of a major online power, but what happens on the computer is a very minor part. For us, it was more important to concentrate on the drama and emotions of the characters, and that’s what makes this a timeless story. It’s utterly contemporary…but a little bit Shakespearean, too. It’s about people participating in something that’s bigger than themselves, something that will change all of their lives in one way or another.”
Last word to Zuckerberg
Vanity Fair dubbed Zuckerberg “our new Caesar” in its October issue and ranked him #1 power broker, ahead of Steve Jobs, Oprah, and others. In The Face of Facebook, an article about the man and the movie in The New Yorker on September 20th, journalist Jose Antonio Vargas reports that in the bio section of his FB page Zuckerberg states, “I’m trying to make the world a more open place.”
In light of the popularity of FB, its recurring privacy issues, and Zuckerberg’s powers and plans, we’ll see how it turns out.