November 11, 2011

The Social Network (USA 2010)

"The Social Network" was my film of the year 2010 - I haven't made up my mind about 2011 just yet - so I decided to re-watch it recently to see if it is still as exhilarating now that the hype about the film - and facebook itself - has cooled off a little. To get straight to the point: yes, it is, and it always will be. It is a fascinating portrait of a generation and as such will stand the test of time. It is one of the few films that can instantly be called a modern classic.

When I first read about the project (on the web, where else?) I was rather skeptical. By the way, as skeptical as when I - suggested by a friend - first registered on this then relatively unknown social networking platform in the year of 2005. The idea of retelling one of the biggest success stories of recent business history after such a short term and of portraying the person of founder Mark Zuckerberg as a villain seemed problematic to me. And a middle-aged director like David Fincher who previously made mostly genre films didn't seem to me as the right guy to "get" what this generation was all about. It was clear from the very beginning that - as in many other biopics - reality would be misrepresented and a false image of the still living persons would be created. Above all, I asked myself whether the genesis of an Internet company could make for an interesting subject for a movie.

The fact that the final product works so well and is so much more than just a movie about facebook, has mostly two reasons: first of all, the brilliant script of Aaron Sorkin which - along with its eternal themes of class war and betrayal - indeed delivers gripping material for a film. Good films usually have one or two memorable scenes but "The Social Network" is a succession of great scenes. Even if the film is distinctly modern and so close to the attitude the current generation has to life, the underlying story is a classical drama that would be equally suitable for a Shakespeare play. Most characters are surprisingly complex and ambivalent - even Zuckerberg is not a real bad guy but also far from a hero. Despite all his newly achieved fame and fortune, he still fails to impress his ex-girlfriend or to enter the social class in which his fellow students at Harvard were born into.

The other reason for the success of the film is director David Fincher whose visually inventive direction makes the film enthralling despite the somewhat serious content - about half of the film consists of the various trials Zuckerberg is facing. He deserves credit that the film has such a strong connection to the "nowness of now" - as another critic put it. There has rarely been a film recently that captures the Zeitgeist as vividly and that I myself experienced as intensely - probably also because I was able to identify with the characters in the film in many ways.

"The Social Network" is not just a film about a phenomenal success story but a film about America and the world, about an individual and about all of us. In a few decades it will be regarded representative for our era in a way that "Wall Street" was for the 80s. With the main lesson to learn here that it is all about being cool. Times really have changed but greed still seems to be good. Only the "Gordon Gekkos" of our time are now called Sean Parker and Mark Zuckerberg...


The accidental billionaires

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