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Ten minutes into the film, I considered it a very likely outcome that I would just hate this movie. Following my rather negative attitude towards “Zodiac” and my drowning in the sea of bored when watching “Benjamin Button”, I considered it rather likely that David Fincher is just not making the movies I would be interested in anymore. I hated everybody I saw on screen: all characters are so full of themselves, so full of vacuousness, if that is a proper word, so busy filling their lives to the brim with nothing. It was like watching the opening dinner party of Cloverfield all over again, where the director went at great lengths to make you hate everybody so that you would feel kind of guilty when the monster kills them off later. I wished for a monster to get rid of these Harvard kids.

After half an hour, I was captivated, and still by the same thing: that there is this parallel universe of American universities that needs to create institution after institution, tradition after tradition to convey a form of customer satisfaction not to current students, but to graduates who the university needs to feel attached to those institutions and traditions as long as they live – and ideally into the grave, when the last will and testament kicks in and provides additional funding for the next “Finals Club” (I still don’t know what that is, really).

Contrary to what you would see in other movies, this is not about smart people caving in under the pressure of this kind of system, or rebelling against it, but about how smart people live in it and with it and use the system to create a laboratory of life, setting up companies and girl-rating websites and playing with codes of honour and a lot of money to practice their skills for their future life outside.

That life outside begins for main character Mark Zuckerberg when the company structures her established for his Facebook adventure get eaten away by outside investors and consultants. Fincher lines them all up: the college boy turned into CFO, the VC suits with an edge for New Economy, the self-declared internet market revolutionary douchebag living off past achievements, the decorative and hysterical girls interested mainly in the money, the dope and the playstation.

I will not engage in the discussion on whether this was a true representation on what happened around the founding of Facebook, because honestly I don’t care. But it is maybe worth mentioning that the characters populating The Social Network are all credible. Is this what makes me come back to being friends with Mr Fincher again? That he is able to tell this story (that could easily be overwhelmed by the audience’s reflections on accuracy, authenticity, legitimacy…) as a gripping tale of conflict between humans. Nerdy, creepy, annoying, vacuous, etc humans, but humans nonetheless.

UPDATE 05-2012: I always kept this film on my list of “need to watch again soon” movies, because the statccato dialogues, and the constant stream of information about Facebook company developments would allow for more insights upon coming back to it, I was thinking. Now I had two triggers: Facebook went public, maybe closing the story line that was told with this film to a certain extent. And I started watching Aaron Sorkin’s “The West Wing”, something that I have been planning for years.

Indeed, there is a slightly new perspective to this now: I believe even more than back when originally watching that all these people are despicable, albeit pretty good at what they are doing. Leading to the question whether these two aspects are somehow related, at least in the area of start-up entrepreneurship. I did not appreciate Justin Timberlake’s acting as much as I did back then, he appears to be a bit clumsy in trying to be Sean Parker cool, but still convincing as annoying and obnoxious pretty boy. Interesting how after rewatching Zodiac the other day and also liking it a bit more than when I originally saw it, David Fincher’s films do not necessarily lose over time. If anything, they get more interesting.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the-social-network/

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