If you’ve been following the site for a while, you might know I have written about The Social Network before. It was actually my first article for the website and it involved explaining my .03% tattoo and my love for the incredible soundtrack by Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor.
Let’s rewind back in time. It’s 2010. I’m sitting in my living room and see the trailer for a film about Facebook. Although the cinematography impresses me, the choir over pictures of the website creeps me out and leaves me with no interest in ever watching this film. At that moment, I am not obsessed with David Fincher yet, although I have loved Zodiac and Fight Club. I merely go on with my life until the reviews start praising the acting and the lengthy script. I start wondering: is there more to this film than just a story about Facebook? The answer is yes.
The movie doesn’t start with a cliché close-up of Mark Zuckerberg typing some codes on the computer. No, it starts with a 6-minute long break-up scene that the actors had to act out 99 times according to Rooney Mara who played Erica Albright (our favourite 34B getting all sorts of help from Victoria Secret). The pacing captivates you into watching more, although technically not much is said, you already get a grasp of the main character and his fragile ego. This is the beauty of Aaron Sorkin’s script, it was never trimmed down. The whole 178 pages made it to the screen and that’s because David Fincher fought for it.
As I have mentioned before, David Fincher is a man who knows what he wants and he surrounds himself with amazing artists to fulfil his vision to the tiniest details. And The Social Network is a movie that shines because of the level of precision in which his vision comes to life. Jeff Cronenweth, as a DOP, brought perfect symmetry to the screen and the use of harsh colours matched the grungy soundtrack beautifully. Fincher’s vision, along with the excellent work from everyone on the film crew, makes The Social Network a masterpiece rather than a corny story about how a student of Harvard became the youngest billionaire to ever be.
But what’s even more interesting to me is his method of directing and what it brings to a film like The Social Network. When you have so much dialogue on the page, every second matter, timing is everything, but not to the detriment of the acting. It has been mentioned by almost every actor who has worked with him that Fincher puts them through very intense regimens. From shooting the same scene close to a hundred times to asking Ben Affleck to read Gone Girl fifty times… it gets done to create a perfect moment in time. And it works. Those 178 pages never feel heavy, the dialogue isn’t weighing us down, it’s the story and the emotional turmoil that is the vehicle of that.
Fincher is a director that gets you insidiously, he will build emotions through flawless cinematography and smart dialogue, yes, but it’s more than that. There’s a flavour to his films that leaves you feeling numb, sad and those feelings creep up on you without you noticing. He never makes you realize it but there is so much going on, your heart can’t help but race. As you witness Mark going from one lawsuit to another, you start feeling anxious. Fincher builds momentum until you finally notice that those flashbacks to “happier times” only lead to the loss of his best friend.
The Social Network might be the best example that his method of directing creates intense moments of emotion through simple scenes. All you ever do need is a sharp dialogue and a vulnerable actor who’s ready to put in tremendous work. I will leave you with this gratuitous quote as we celebrate David Fincher this week: