Posts Tagged ‘the social network’
So it turns out I wasn’t done talking about The Social Network. Where my last post focused on the movie’s trailer, I’d like to turn to the movie’s overall aesthetic, and of course, how music is a principal force corollary example of director David Fincher’s approach to the film. And then, after this post, I’ll be done talking about this film. That being said, it’s still a relevant and timely subject for discussion, if a recent AP article is any indication. The story, which I happened to find via Yahoo!, indicates that The Social Network has taken in top box office figures for the second week in a row. The film has now made $46.1 million.
Question: So once the trailer got me hooked, what about this movie kept me “reeled in?” (Seriously, no pun intended just there, but I like it nonetheless.)
Answer: The Social Network is all about visual, psychological/emotional, and musical interiors.
First the look of the movie. As shot by David Fincher, Harvard is a visually dark and dimly lit labyrinth of outdoor alcoves, connected by circuitous paths, which lead to the inner sanctum/nooks of dorm rooms. The outdoor environment is large and imposing, and the students that populate the environment, seem so utterly isolated and disconnected , often treating one another with callous indifference at best. And so, the intimidation factor is at a constant high.
Once inside the living spaces of Harvard’s individual “houses,” there is a more palpable camaraderie between the inhabitants, but it’s tempered by the sense that ultimately each and every one of these people are alone. They are individuals whose lives don’t intersect in any sort of meaningful way. Visually, the dorm rooms and frat houses are dark, and the mostly wood interiors emit little warmth from single desk lamps poised over laptops. But ultimately, there is a cold permanence to the look and feel of the rooms.
The students will come and go, their individual exploits are virtually inconsequential in comparison with HARVARD, its legacy , its buildings, its traditions. (This truth is captured perfectly in the scene in which the Winklevoss twins beseech Harvard University’s then-president to take action against Zuckerberg in correspondence with university policy, and the students are admonished about treating the vintage furniture with great care. After the visit, one twin purposefully yanks the doorknob from the door of Summer’s office.)
Even when Zuckerberg meets with the future president of his company, Sean Parker, inside a hip and crowded club, there is a palpable detachment from humanity somehow, all tinged with an unearthly glow coming from the table the pair are seated at.
Later at Facebook’s headquarters, the hue of the room is markedly brighter, the space more fresh, open, and uncluttered. All of these visual elements are clearly by precise and brilliantly attuned design. But the visuals have no resonance if they do not serve as the manifestations of the inner workings of the individual characters, the closed society in question, and the thematic elements of interpersonal connection, secrecy, and individual’s lonely striving toward relevance and social solvency. How are real relationships formed here? How are they destroyed? The clever paradox of the film and its (questionable) protagonist is that the quest toward fulling realizing Facebook is both the source of new connections–online for users worldwide and for Zuckerberg’s burgeoning business–and the bane of real, meaningful life experiences with others.
This dark world that Zuckerberg finds himself ensconced in while at Harvard is overcrowded with people just like him, but he is alienated by the inhibiting social structures in place and by his (or at least the character in the film) failure to relate to others on a personal level, particularly those closest to him. There is plenty of opportunity to find fulfillment and a modicum of contentedness through relationship with others, but the Facebook mastermind is blinded by his own ambition.
By the time he has found success and achieved all his wildest aspirations for his singular and game-changing creation, he is free from the creative and professional shackles that held him down (evidenced visually as previously stated) but he has no true friends outside of the business with whom he could share in his success. And so by the end of the film, MINOR SPOILER ALERT (although by now it probably doesn’t matter for most of you out there), we see Zuckerberg alone in a conference room late at night after an exhausting round of depositions, reduced to waiting, in undeniably pathetic fashion, for confirmation of a friend request sent to the girl who got away from the beginning of the film. He’s come full circle, but of course, there is no real emotional or psychological resolution.
Somewhat ironically, I have the least to say here when it comes to elaborating on how the film’s musical score–which was written by Trent Reznor of NIne Inch Nails and Atticus Ross–excavates the interior. Throughout, the music is intense but muted, electronic but vaguely related to acoustic influences and sources. One gets the sense that the music reflects a personal world that is once, maybe twice removed from a life filled to the brim with meaningful human contact. As Pitchfork has noted the soundtrack includes ostensibly a cover of Edvard Grieg’s somewhat ubiquitous classic “In the Hall of the Mountain KIng.” Check out that link for audio of Reznor’s version. Personally, that work first achieved resonance for me when it was featured in an episode of the ’80s children’s television program Zoobilee Zoo. I had to have been three of four years of age. Totally classic, it reeks of awesomeness:
But back to The Social Network. With no good transition from Zoobilee Zoo to Zuckerberg, I’ll just end with this. I think that in the end, David Fincher and his film (intentionally) tell us less about Mark Zuckerberg–and what really happened or did not happen during the throes of Facebook’s conception, birth, and infancy– but more about ourselves. Our attachment to Facebook and other fascinating emergent technologies, platforms, and environments: what does all this mean in reality, in our interpersonal connections with flesh-and-blood neighbors, friends, enemies, and significant others? What are we gaining? And at what cost?
So like so many out there, I saw the The Social Network in theaters recently. And also like so many others, I thought it was excellent: artfully done with an impeccable cast, an unassailable script by Aaron Sorkin of The West Wing fame, and of course inspired direction from David Fincher, whose past work includes the chilling Se7en.
But for those of you interested in the movie itself, you most likely knew much of that already. And actually, I’m not interested in talking about the movie, per se. (To get it out of my system, however, I have to applaud Fincher and particularly Sorkin for what I believe to be the most important overarching decision they had to make concerning the movie: using a true story as a base from which to build a screenplay that creates an alternate reality of what really happened–a version that is most definitely embellished, exaggerated and at times wholly fabricated–in order to communicate a larger truth. That’s art as far as I’m concerned and I love this film for that fact alone.
And speaking of facts, the real reason for this post is for a decision David Fincher and co. made outside of the film itself. I’m talking about the movie’s main trailer–not specifically the teaser promos–which utilizes a cover of Radiohead’s “breakthrough hit” “Creep” performed here by a Belgian girls’ choir named Scala and led by the Kolacny brothers.
This ensemble has made a career out performing rock and pop songs in a clear, minimalistic yet classically rooted choral sound. As a stand-alone cover tune, this version really warms the cockles of my heart. (And no, despite how it sounds, I don’t mean that in a sexual way.) To be honest, I was never a big fan of the original Radiohead version. I don’t know why for sure, except that the album of theirs that got me hooked was The Bends, and “Creep” doesn’t appear on that record.
An obvious adjective like “haunting” comes to mind quite easily, and while it’s indeed apt here, it doesn’t go far enough in describing how the music serves to drive home the potency of the movie–or perhaps more accurately the allure of the movie–in conjunction with the trailer.
The trailer begins. Immediately as images of Facebook screen captures and in-progress status updates appear, the distinctive sound of a unified voice–the girl’s choir–emerges, accompanied by a solitary piano, somber yet penetrating. The vocal performance is already immediately arresting, eight seconds in. Part of the reason is that the instruments and combined sonic texture is not commonly used in movie trailers, but what really makes it “click” (truly no pun intended) is the Kolacny Brothers’ ability to command–nay coax–fluid, driven phrases that are always moving toward the something, whether it’s the crusis in the next few bars, or over the entire length of the song.
The trailer proper quickly enfolds as we see Jesse Zuckerberg (that’s how good Eisenberg is here) explain the initial idea of Facebook, and the truncated version of the interpersonal technological,and strictly litigious whirlwind that ensues. The song builds in perfect synchronicity with the ratcheting up of tension we see on the screen. The charismatic yet ethereal voice of the choir, along with the undulating piano chords do not distract us from what we’re watching, but rather they transfix our minds to the spot. Add to it the subconscious element of hearing lyrics like “I want you to notice when I’m not around/You’re so very special/I wish I was special” [ the original word fuckin' was omitted for obvious reasons in the trailer version]–and additional lyrics that function like the autobiographical words of Mark Zuckerberg, the movie character–and you’ve got some real mystical cinematic hypnotism going on.
But I’m a creep/I’m a weirdo/What the hell am I doing here/I don’t belong here…I don’t care if it hurts, I wanna have control/I want a perfect body/I want a perfect soul
And so, at about the 1:49 mark of the trailer when Eduardo Saverin (played by Andrew Garfield) destroys Zuckerberg’s laptop in complete anger and futile frustration just as Scala hits the chord suspension on the word “run,” –damn. I’ve been blown away.
An addendum: I seem to remember another movie whose promo trailer was also startlingly effective for very similar reasons: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, directed by one David Fincher and set to a song called “My Body Is a Cage” by Arcade Fire.
We should all be taking copious notes from this Fincher guy. He seems to understand this whole movie music thing.
Comments are totally welcome and definitely encouraged. Let’s talk it out.