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Face to face

In a trailer for The Social Network — the new movie about the tumultuous origins of the social networking site Facebook.

Written by New York Times |
September 26, 2010 12:56:31 am

In a trailer for The Social Network — the new movie about the tumultuous origins of the social networking site Facebook—a cursor makes its way across the modern digital landscape,full of “friends” who may or may not be friends,and strangers smiling in intimate ways. It promises a story that is as sexy and clickable as a seconds-old status update,one about the most modern of subjects in a frantically wired world. Then again,the film— written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by David Finch—deals in archetypes and conflicts as old as the Bible.

“We’re not fad hopping,” said Fincher,“There’s an ironic story behind this thing that’s about friendship and the need to connect. The fact that it was Facebook brought an interesting context for this simple drama of acrimony.”

Said Scott Rudin,one of the producers of the film is built on themes that would not be out of place in ancient Rome. “It’s very classic. The men want to kill each other,the women are cruel,and only the fittest survive.”

The Social Network describes how Facebook,then “thefacebook,” created an alternative social hierarchy,first at Harvard in 2004,then in the world at large.

Plenty of young actors lined up to work on a film directed by Fincher (Seven,Fight Club,Zodiac,The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and written by Aaron Sorkin (the creator of TV show The West Wing and film scripts including Charlie Wilson’s War,Malice and A Few Good Men). Jesse Eisenberg (Adventureland) was cast as Zuckerberg,the film’s protagonist; Andrew Garfield (the next Spider-Man) plays Zuckerberg’s spurned wingman,Eduardo Saverin; and Justin Timberlake,big-deal music star,took on the role of Parker,the Internet impresario-genius-huckster.

But the film belongs to Fincher and Sorkin. Sorkin acknowledged the odd couple nature of the pairing. “This is not intuitively the perfect marriage of director and material,” Sorkin said. “What David is most known for is that he’s peerless as a visual director,and I write people talking in rooms. David absolutely welcomed all the language and managed to make it visually beautiful and really emotional.”

Rudin added,“This is a story about a hacker who morphs into a C.E.O.,and I think that David has a deep understanding and instinct about who those kinds of insurgents are.”

Fincher said genuine revolutions are frequently met with condescension.“I know very subjectively what it’s like to be 21 years old and sitting in a room full of adults who are all taking about how cute your passion for your vision is and how angry that makes you,” he said. “A certain kind of young person is going to respond by saying,‘Let’s knock the walls of this thing down,set fire to the conventional wisdom and take the future for a test drive.’ “Sorkin called the story “awfully ironic,” noting,“these were people whose social lives blew apart as a result of what they were trying to do.”

“In most films you see the story through the eyes of the protagonist and that’s it,” Timberlake said. “But in this film everyone is an antagonist,every one has a point of view. There is something very melancholic about that everyone believes they are doing the right thing. Everyone sees themselves as the good guy.”

Social media with the technology that allows people instantly to inform dozens or hundreds of thousands of people about where they’ve been and what they’ve done,in pictures and in words become a kind of self-replicating organism in the film,feeding and consuming all who mouse over it. Garfield said most actors were already too connected,too public. “Because of how I was raised,part of it feels crass and in bad taste,but,regardless,it is a revolution in progress,an act of pure creation that is genius in its simplicity.”

When Rudin looks at Facebook,he doesn’t see revolution or unprecedented business success,he sees an allegory.

“Facebook,” he said,“is something you can hold it up to the light and turn it to the right or left,and it becomes a metaphor for some very big things: The nature of communication. What is friendship? What is the nature of loneliness?”

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