• Reel Reviews
The Social Network - Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

The Social Network Strikes a Chord

written by: on November 22, 2010

When two or more musical notes are struck together, it can form a perfect tone; something so interesting or pleasing to listen to, a listener can’t turn away.

If films can be thought of as individual notes coming together to make one sound, only every once in a great while would we hear a chord as perfect as “The Social Network.”  The direction, the script, and the performances all resonate powerfully together, while never being forceful.

When such a perfect chord is played, if dissected, a listener can notice subtle yet beautiful overtones. These tones never stand out and are rarely noticed, though they are perfect complements.

If “The Social Network” is the perfect chord, the soundtrack to “The Social Network” is a flawless overtone.

Directed by David Fincher, “The Social Network” is the story of the rise of Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg. The script, written by Aaron Sorkin, is adapted from the Ben Mezrich book “The Accidental Billionaires.” The movie stars a cast of impressive actors, including Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake and Andrew Garfield.

The film’s dark, moody score comes from the minds and talents of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. While all of these names are renowned in their respective fields, what makes “The Social Network” stunning is how well each of these pieces, each of these notes, fits together.

If one were to try to explain “The Social Network” without using adjectives, just stating the facts, it’s safe to say they may  bore before long. Sure, it’s intriguing because it all really happened, but most of the time span of the actual story takes place following legal back and forth or in front of a computer screen.

Now, if one had the ability to tell a story like Aaron Sorkin can, it’d be … well … a different story. The dialogue (the way each character talks, how they interact and the quirks and qualms they have) of Sorkin’s script is what drives the movie first and foremost. It makes a movie about starting a website fly by, which is no easy task and  the reason Reznor originally declined the opportunity to work on the movie.

Fincher asked him to write the soundtrack, but Reznor said no. He said a movie about Facebook was not something he or others would be interested in. Then, Reznor read Sorkin’s script and changed his mind.

Collaborating once again with Ross (the two worked on Nine Inch Nails’ Ghosts I-IV), Reznor painted a unique soundscape that somehow fits “The Social Network” as a perfect overtone. Reznor/Ross created a score that adds a subtle dissonant drama to each scene. Listening to the soundtrack separate from the film, it’s difficult to picture Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin arguing at a table in front of legal teams, or Zuckerberg sitting alone in a room programming.The score seems more at home in a scene from a Final Fantasy cut-away, or a futuristic dystopia. Though again, once the layering begins, it’s difficult to picture any other accompaniment.

Sorkin’s dialogue, Fincher’s masterful directing and a nomination worthy performance by the film’s lead, Jesse Eisenberg all come together.

Eisenberg nails the role. Without the audience knowing anything about Zuckerberg other than what he’s accomplished and his net-worth, Eisenberg finds a way to make the character villainous without vilifying, emotional without emoting and lonely without ever being alone. For a young actor who has taken on roles easily substituted by any lanky, awkward, baby-face, he  shows what he’s capable of. The reason his performance is so perfect, is because “The Social Network” wouldn’t be if any of the working cogs were any less than.

There are few quiet moments where the audience witnesses the vulnerability of Eisenberg/Zuckerberg. In the movie’s first ten minutes, Zuckerberg, is wounded and angry, taking out aggression on his scorner alone in his dorm room, via his blog and a website. On the opposite end of the film, Zuckerberg sits quiet, equally alone at the top of his mountain, Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, while his entire staff wraps up a party for achieving one-million members.

In these two moments, Zuckerberg is truly alone, looking abandoned. These powerful scenes show one of the wealthiest men in the world at the start of his climb and the beginning of sky-rocket success, somehow looking equally defeated in both. The emotion of these scenes is amplified by the ambient tone of Reznor’s interpretation.

If Reznor finds the right haunting sounds for dark and lonely feelings, he creates impeccable balance for one of “The Social Network’s” most physical and memorable sequences. Using a re-vamped, signature version of the German orchestral classic “In the Hall of the Mountain King”, Reznor creates a scene of build-up, struggle and exhausting physical defeat of the Winkelvoss twins during a Harvard crew match.

In a scene with no dialogue, the future Olympian brothers pour everything they have into the race and come up just short of victory, a perfect metaphor for their parallel struggle against Zuckerberg at the time. The last few seconds of the scene show the twins’ pained expressions as Reznor’s song comes to a powerfully climactic and decisive hault.

As “The Social Network” fades to credits, the combination of soundtrack, direction and performance leaves the audience feeling remorse and sympathy for a character they thought they understood. All year long they have been impressed by or jealous of the success of Zuckerberg, the world’s youngest billionaire. They have Facebook accounts. They log in daily without thinking of the success and sacrifice of the creator who began a cultural phenomenon and granted a generation with our version of a “Where were you when this happened” moment.

The collective talent that brings this movie to life makes one think twice about choices and impact on a path to success, and who the heroes and villains are, if there can be any. Like a beautiful, dissonant chord, “The Social Network” represents the delicate balance of pure satisfaction and lonely discomfort.