Sunday, 10 October 2010

Social Network

(Screenshot 'borrowed' from the official site)

I went to see Social Network this morning as a free preview screening at my local art house cinema in Winchester courtesy of Showfilmfirst. Thanks guys.

I must say that I am a reflector - I find spontaneous reaction to things hard and prefer to understand things and mull them over before I respond. This film has got me so buzzing, I'm writing this the same day!

This is the story of the creation of facebook and the disputes that followed as it blossomed into a multi-billion dollar business. Set in Harvard University in Boston in the early noughties, it tells the story of genius Mark Zuckerberg. As is common with many folk who also happen to be a genius, Zuckerberg seems to score on the autism scale in terms of his difficulty in behaving appropriately in his relationships. Whilst the story is about facebook - the social networking site, it is also cleverly about the social networks and their varying degrees of functionality that spawned this behemoth. The Harvard Colleges and exclusive clubs, the have's and the have not's, those in relationship and those longing for one. The way the narrative unfurls demonstrates the very medium that the story is about - Zeitgeist personified!

I was expecting a geeky mutual love-fest with nerds and hard-nosed business types. What I watched was an utterly gripping and compelling portrayal of the messiness of creativity at work. The characterisations are immensely strong - easy to believe and totally convincing. The juxtaposition of Harvard - old-school, back East and the seat of sound ideas - over and against Palo Alto California where anything is possible and to where ideas must migrate if they are to be given life and succeed - is a reflection of the paradigm shift that echoes the demise of quill and ink in the face of the hegemony of WiFi and e-commerce.

Much of the film is set in the context of the two law suits Mark Zuckerberg defended. These are spliced seamlessly with the unravelling story as facebook grows and develops into the ubiquitous force it has become around the world today. Throughout is a painfully engaging portrayal of Zuckerberg as he struggles to hold together the relationships necessary to make the enterprise work. It is as though his abilities in programming and social network conceptualisation in the virtual world are inversely proportionate to his ability to sustain social networks in the real world. This, together with the fact that he is at heart a 'good person' endears him to movie-goers. A genius who is genuinely disinterested in wealth, notoriety and prestige, but who struggles with people. Zuckerberg only had one true friend in the story and even they end up in a legal confrontation.

As a piece of social history, recent history, this is a must-see film. The facebook generation are the ones beginning to run our planet - any insights into what drives them are valuable. As a piece of compelling drama of the highest quality, this is a must-see movie. As a portrayal of genius and the inability to relate appropriately, it is a must-see movie. I think you should go and see it!

I'll give it 9/10 and I'd happily see it again tomorrow! Can't wait for the bluray.

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