The Social Network

18 10 2010

On Saturday afternoon I went to see The Social Network.

On Saturday evening, I mentioned this to someone in the pub and they asked me what it was about. I struggled… “Uh… It’s about theft and conspiracy and greed and…” (whispering in the smallest voice possible) “facebook.”

You see, no matter how much I actually enjoyed the film, at the end of the day, there is something a bit odd and embarrassing about admitting that you went to watch a film about Facebook. Add into the mix that one of the stars is Justin Timberlake, and it really doesn’t sound like the kind of film I want people to know that I’ve seen!

But having said that, Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay, which elevates it somewhat. As people have remarked in the past, ‘Sorkin could write a film about the telephone directory and make it interesting.’ Well – this is probably (hopefully) the closest we’ll ever get to testing that theory. And lo and behold, he does a great job. The script is the best feature of the film – except for the opening scene which, whilst engaging and well written, was just one notch too fast for my liking and so packed full of American jargon that I had more or less no idea what was going on for the first 2-3 minutes of dialogue. But I blame that on the director!

There was an interesting soundtrack from Trent Reznor, though I was slightly puzzled by the choice of music for the Henley Regatta. Apparently ‘In the hall of the mountain king’ sounds quintessentially English, in spite of it being written by a Norwegian composer for inclusion in a play that is expressly about the Norwegian personality!! But that quirk aside, it was a good soundtrack, and Reznor was an apt choice, given his creative and rebellious stance towards record labels, music sharing (stealing) and the suchlike.

To be honest, I have no idea how accurate the film was, but it made me almost want to quit Facebook. The background, the vengeful motives behind creating it, the ‘two fingers to the corporations’ attitude… I just didn’t like it. Zuckerberg comes across as an unlikeable and untrustworthy guy. But then again, that may not be at all true to life, and I’m sure that at this point Facebook is so bound up with businessmen, legal teams, systems and structures that Zuckerberg’s ‘hack things on a whim’ attitude will be somewhat reigned in.

There’s also something very peculiar about watching a film that is so current. Zuckerberg is two months younger than I am, is worth $6.9 billion, and has had an unflattering film made about him. What pressure! In addition, the story is not even complete. Facebook is still developing, growing, morphing. According to some reports, the legal battles may not even be over. It’s very much a film of the moment, and in a year it will be dated. But I suppose that’s indicative of this ‘throw your thoughts out there, they’re gone in a second and never remembered‘ age of social networking and micro-blogging.

At another level though, it was an interesting portrayal of how ideas spark, spread and shape culture. Who would have thought we’d see the day when 500 million people would belong to an online community, let alone paying to see a film about it? For better or worse, Facebook is a cultural phenomenon, and The Social Network is a thought provoking explanation of how it got to be that way.

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