The Social Network (2010) – slice

Window as a screen–now defined by a mathematical algorithm

The thing about this film is that it is about a very new concept of human society, but it also is an extension of an old one that cinema has always liked in using for narrative drive–interpersonal relationships and drama. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter are in a way a radically new way of communicating something that is surprsingly old. Therefore a film about this new concept’s origin and the drama surrounding needed a necessarily modernised way of telling a its story that is in essence not really that new.

David Fincher really knows how to use CGI to bring the urbanscape into life–or seal it into a fantasy that seems so real and unreal at the same time. Gone Girl is a perfect example of this: that relationship between two main characters are a web of reality and fantasy they have created based on their expectations, and Fincher’s style of actively using CGI to render something that is already present but not as stylishly, works perfectly to capture that uneasy middle ground where they co-exist.

The Social Network, is a similar case: it’s essentially a legal drama about something that does not exist in reality. The cold landscapes of Havard and decidedly West-coast-looking Silicon Valley scenes are reminder that services such as Facebook and Twitter has changed what reality means to us and what real relationship means to us. The computer screens in this film are actually really intersting because unlike so many other movies, they look like the ones we would see when we open our laptops. On the other hand, the outside world looks much more stylish than what we actually see. That weird reversal represents the shift in our way of viewing our interpersonal relationships, and where they take place now. The visual artificiality of the film, which usually would only mean stylish touch in other films, strikes at the heart of the shift in our society as whole. Before, the computer reality was the a reflection of our reality; in this film, they are reflections of each other, and sometimes the reality actually becomes the reflection, therefore the subtle CGI touches of those shots.

Take the early scene where they write the algorithm for Zuckerburg’s prank site on the window. The function of window, which there are many in film theories, is usually to look outside. The act of writing down an algorithm on that transparent screen, then not only obscures how we look outside, but foreshadows the shift in our view of the reality–it is now defined by the mathematical algorithm of a program that would later grow to mediate real-life relationships.

The brilliant soundtrack, which also reinforces that new world we live in, in the end was only the icing on the cake.