On Friday, October 1st, The Social Network, David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s take on the invention of Facebook, will be released to audiences across the country. Take a look at that title. There’s a reason why this film isn’t called Facebook, and it’s not simply to avoid lawsuits from the site’s creator, Mark Zuckerberg.
Then again, why not go with The Accidental Billionaires, the title of the non-fiction book from which the screenplay was adapted? No, if we know David Fincher, he’s getting at something here. Some says he’s the best director of his generation, others write him off as someone who replaces substance with style, but there’s no denying that his best films are dulled by a strong vision. He’s not content to just tell the story that is on the surface; he needs to dig down and see how he can find out how he can relate his material to our society today.
Let’s take a look at some of his more noteworthy accomplishments and try to see what he’s had to say.
Fincher’s sophomore effort as a feature film director may be the definitive serial-killer film. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman play detectives on the trail of a creative maniac who is selecting his victims based on The Seven Deadly Sins. In the hands of another filmmaker, this could have been a glorified slasher film with a little ambition.
Luckily, David Fincher is not “another filmmaker.” He used the twisted tale of a religious zealot and these two cops, one battered by years of seeing the worst mankind has to offer, another fueled by idealism and faith in the goodness of people, as a means to explore society’s apathy in the face of violence and cruelty. In an age where most of the news is bad news, how do people go on existing in this world?
It’s a good question, one which he leaves thankfully unanswered. But, it is also an early indicator of his obsessive need to tap into something that we are all thinking about, whether we admit it or not.
Perhaps no film has resonated more strongly with moviegoers of this era than Fight Club, Fincher’s exploration of disillusionment, depression, and confused masculinity. As rumor has it, Fox execs thought they had nothing more than a clever action-thriller on their hands. Little did they know, their up-and-coming director would transform it into an aggressive, brutal film that managed to do what few movies can: speak for an entire generation.
Give David Fincher credit; he never makes the same film twice. When it was announced that he would tackle the subject of The Zodiac Killer, many thought that we were back in SE7EN territory, but such is not the case. Fincher wasn’t interested in man’s inhumanity to man here. He already covered that. Instead, he turned his lens to the media’s role in contributing to the mythology of a serial killer, as well as the confusion generated by the information age. The challenge facing the obsessive characters in this film is to identify the truth amid the web of stories surrounding these events. For a society caught in an endless chaos of mass media, it’s totally appropriate, especially when terrorists are taunting us in much the same way that The Zodiac Killer once did.
The Social Network
It looks like the latest effort from Fincher will follow in the trend set by his previous films. He’s not here to simply explain how a dorm-room idea became a global phenomenon. Early reviews indicate that he is more preoccupied with the hunger for money and recognition that drove people like Mark Zuckerberg and, later, Sean Parker, co-founder of Napster and advisor to Zuckerberg, to abandon friendships and ethics on their way to the top.
Facebook has reminded society that no matter how far away high school might be, life is often a series of popularity contests, with the rich and famous occupying the highest rung on the social ladder. By telling the story of it’s invention, David Fincher can once again ask questions about society, questions without easy answers.
Most great directors have a trademark of some kind. Martin Scorsese’s films feature rock and roll visuals and guilty consciences. Spielberg is the kind of popcorn entertainment. No one did suspense like Alfred Hitchcock.
Fight Club looks nothing like Zodiac which look nothing like The Social Network. Fincher’s trademark isn’t a visual one, it’s his obsession with exploring a single person, be it a murderer or a website owner, and using that one person as the key to unlocking entire secret societies and showing us what’s inside. With one person, he create a world for us to experience and relate to — that is what he will be remembered for when another generation of filmmakers takes over, for being the man who took on mankind.
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