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Late on in David Fincher’s The Social Network, one of the films of the year so far in my estimation, one of the principal characters pronounces- ‘People lived on farms, then in cities, now we’re gonna live on the Internet.’ It’s a piece of dialogue that’s on the nose, written by the screenwriter with the benefit of hindsight and as a line uttered by Justin Timberlake portraying Sean Parker captures the brash, forward thinking nature of this young alpha male, a Mephistophelean figure of sorts. It is also to a quite sobering extent, true.

Five hundred million people are currently registered with Facebook worldwide and yours truly is one of them. Incrementally, over the past five years or so I have probably spend more time interacting through a screen in a room than actually communicating with flesh and blood people. This thought stayed with me throughout the film, a haunted whisper in my ear realizing that yes, I would be typing up a review of a film centering around the invention of Facebook and posting it up on Facebook later. A film that explores the drive of the male ego that I would analyze and dissect, make public in order to attract attention and boost my own ego. The snake eating it’s tail.

Back to the line in question. Quite prescient within the timeline of the film and summing up our current generation, how the idea or notion of community has migrated from the physical world to the virtual. There is a tangible sense of something lost, of a potential social and humanist paradise that has been corrupted, misused. It’s there in the slightly sickly, decaying brown and green hue of Jeff Cronenweth’s cinematography, the threatening, buzzing, melancholic music scored by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and throughout by the character of Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook himself, representing the curious fragility of the male ego.

He is played by Jesse Eisenberg as a young man of startling intelligence and alertness yet curiously aloof and to put it kindly, socially awkward and emotionally stunted. Possessing a great mind, he is a kid full of potential which is then channeled into creating a social  networking website that becomes a huge success. It brings untold riches and glory yet also cost him a close  friendship and most significantly, a girl. The girl who rejected him. This rejection drives him to create a multi billion dollar company and it is Zuckerberg’s feelings of rejection, his outsider complex that drives the story.

The films cuts back and forth throughout between the Rashomon like framing device of Zuckerberg testifying in two deposition lawsuits brought against him by his former partner and friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) and the Winklevoss twins (both played by Armie Hummer)  and the story behind Facebook’s creation. In the superb opening scene, Fincher and his editors establish a particular rhythm that matches Aaron Sorkin’s witty, staccato paced dialogue and sets up the path of the narrative as Zuckerberg is dumped races bed by his college girlfriend. Confused and upset, he races back to his college dorm, gets drunk , hacks into several residence hall databases, downloads pictures and names and creates Facemash, a page whereby male students can choose which female student is the most attractive.

Zuckerberg is given academic probation, becomes notorious on campus and is courted by the handsome, all-American Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, twins who are respected members of Harvard’s rowing team.
They ask  for his help in creating a social networking website called Harvard Connection.Initially flattered by the attention of these handsome, chiseled sons of privilege, he agrees but then out of resentment decides to start developing a similar idea for a website concurrently with his best friend and partner Eduardo. The site is called  The Facebook.

When I first heard this project announced, I confess I had some scepticism. It seemed to be too current. How could they make an exciting movie based around a bunch of computer geeks writing code and sitting in front of glowing screens? And really why did this story need to be told?

Well, having seen it now, any doubts I had about it’s validity, both commercial and artistic were quickly erased. This is a modern masterwork- a gripping drama that functions as both an insightful character study and mordantly funny social commentary.It is a digital reflection of who we are now and who we’ve always been and a disturbing reminder of how in our collective desire to be noticed, we have willingly sacrificed our rights to personal privacy.

Fincher simply gets out of the way and lets the cast and script breathe showing little of the visual fuss exhibited in his previous films. If there is any evidence of his directorial signature, it is probably in the uniformly superb performances all around and the subtle yer stunning piece of effects trickery in relation to the ‘Winklevii’.

The Social Network is a fascinating study of the fragility of male psyche-what motivates us, why we compete with each other, how we use and misuse power and is an interesting companion piece to Fincher’s Fight Club in it’s examining of  a particularly male dominated environment and how mans creative, selfless impulses can when motivated by blind egotism easily, almost undetectably transform into something far more sinister unyielding and destructive.

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