Today’s topic: the hidden anger in The Social Network. Upon my third viewing of the Oscar winning (Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Editing) picture directed by (again) mastermind David Fincher, I realized it was more than just the story of how Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, became who he is today and all the people he hurt and betrayed on his way to the top. Sure, it’s a shivering achievement that will always rank among the best character studies of all time, but the real spirit, what drives this film is the presence of a feeling we all know – anger. What motivates the beeping score, the steady camera work and the dynamite characters is not solely Fincher directing the scenes, not even screenwriter Aaron Sorkin with his fist-fight-like screenplay, but the feeling of anger, buried under layers and layers of excellent filmmaking.
If we look closer, we sense it every second of the running time because without it there wouldn’t be no Social Network. During the very same opening scene, Mark (Jesse Eisenberg) and Erica (Rooney Mara) are sitting in a bar, drinking. She’s there knowing she’s only doing it out of pity for a 19 year old genius who spends his days in front of his laptop doing God knows what. It’s a simple set up. In every movie there is the typical face-to-face conversation at some point. Here we have it at the beginning, because the whole dialogue and the setting is a huge establishing shot for what will follow for the rest of the film. The two start arguing about final clubs, since Mark wants to enter one and become part of the most prestigious class of people in Harvard, and Fincher quick cuts the explosive comebacks with fast shots that start to make our heads hurt. Don’t gag. It’s just a warm-up. The conversation ends with Mark making fun of Erica’s level of education and causing her to leave. There he is alone. Angry. Furious. Sitting in the dark corner of a bar. Maybe he didn’t want to insult her, maybe it’s just the way Mark knows how to talk to people, especially to girls. And what comes next? A peaceful but very meaningful title sequence of Mark walking to his dorm through Harvard campus. Now, it’s not just a simple title sequence. It shows who we are following as the main character. Who is leading us into this discovery. He’s larger than what we think of him. He’s larger than Harvard. He’s larger than the US. But not in the way we think. He walks with his head lowered, unnoticed, wearing flip-flops and jeans, he doesn’t smile nor does he exchange looks with anyone. He’s one of a kind, and during that very moment the world can’t touch him because of how angry he is. A walking dynamite. What we first think of as a peaceful scene turns out to be the definition of anger: quiet, insecure, kept in a small cage, but when it finally gets out, oh boy. It’s Zuckerberg time. Hacking and other obscenities will follow.
Why did this movie win for Best Editing? Because with the use of extremely fast paced cuts, inserts and supertitles it creates the atmosphere that only a pulsating fire-ball could create. Tension. Tension, therefore anger. Mark screams in exasperation but no one can hear him, because he doesn’t want to let it out, he’s too afraid. In fact, that’s why Facebook was founded for those who still believe in fairy tales. It was founded because a computer genius at the age of 19 couldn’t make friends. It was founded as a way of telling the whole world how he felt about people: primitive, simple minded, ignorant and naive. It’s not about entering final clubs and prestigious societies anymore, it’s not about feeling appreciated or achieving something grand in the name of Harvard. For Mark that’s “elementary bullshit”. Facebook is for him. It’s a website with his name on every header of every page. It’s a signature ‘screw all of you, I don’t need you.’ But deep down he does. Eduardo (a powerhouse Andrew Garfield) is Mark’s only friend and co-founder of Facebook. It’s also the one who rightfully files a lawsuit against Mark for depriving him of Facebook rights. Because that’s what Zuckerberg did. He cut off the only real friendship he ever had in his entire life. That’s when Fincher’s directing skills kick in. What’s the best way to show someone’s loss? Cut right in the middle of a conversation to a shot of an empty chair, a chair in which Eduardo sat a few seconds before. No more. It’s empty now. Just like Mark’s life in that very same instant. It’s too late for apologies, the chair will stay empty.
Anger is the silent betrayer. It sneaks up on not only Mark’s friends and enemies, it sneaks up on him too. When Mark lies to Eduardo about Facebook’s future, Eduardo freezes all the bank accounts, cutting off the website’s funds. It’s deadly. It hurts. And it’s also when Mark decides to eliminate Eduardo from the team. Eye for an eye. A conflict between friends that is much stronger and much more exhausting than the one Mark leads with his enemies. That’s when the score composed by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross comes into play, especially the theme song Hands Cover Bruise. The skipping, consistent, distorted violins and a few piano notes build up the enormous pumping energy that grows inside of every character, but mainly Mark. It focuses on his loneliness, originality and the gift of his indisputable genius. It’s a score that separates him from the rest of the world, alienating his ideas and motivations, and the scarred feelings he’s always kept to himself. It’s a score that ticks like a time bomb, waiting for the the final ‘tick’. It’s a fuming volcano that someday will have to erupt and nobody will be able to stop it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is anger in its purest form. Capturing it is like riding a bull, you hold on for a few seconds and then you just let go.
A young woman tells Mark at very end of the movie: “You’re not an asshole, Mark. You’re just trying so hard to be.”
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