Cold, Anxious, but Smart: Personification in THE SOCIAL NETWORK

20 February 2011

Mark Zuckerberg, as portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg, in the film The Social Network, is cold, anxious, yet ingenious.  In necessary fairness, this is not a definitive indication of the real Mark Zuckerberg’s persona, it merely assesses the character, or “reel” Zuckerberg, created in the film. 

It is not surprising The Social Network, despite its blatantly flawed anti-hero, is a success; the contemporary content captivates popular culture.  Facebook is iconic within the technological revolution of 21st century, touching countless people all over the world each moment.  However, Facebook’s popularity is not the sole reason The Social Network is such a sensation.  The film’s success comes, in part, through its ability to personify itself as Zuckerberg.  That is, the film, in its cinematic composition, is as cold and anxious as its anti-hero, which also makes it as ingenious.

To say the film’s Zuckerberg is cold is an understatement: he is devoid of compassion, cynical, and terse; the same can be said of the film itself.  Take, for example, the first scene in which Zuckerberg’s girlfriend, Erica Albright, breaks up with him.  The actors sit at a table in a bar, and, although both actors are stationary, the scene has 113 cuts.  For a scene with absolutely no physical action, this amount of cutting is striking.  The cuts are interruptions, ones obstructing intimacy, making the scene as devoid of compassion, cynical, and terse as Zuckerberg’s monotone language and unsympathetic mindset.

Moreover, Zuckerberg is highly anxious in the film, which is best exhibited by the rapidity of his speech, and these cuts further support the film’s personification of its restless main character.  Continuing with the opening scene between Zuckerberg and Albright, each time the camera cuts it takes a moment for the audiences’ eye to readjust to the new frame, but as the scene progresses, and the blows exchanged between the two hit faster, the cuts make it difficult to keep up.  Just as Zuckerberg has no idea what to say—so he hurriedly spews all the unfiltered thoughts coming into his mind—, it is almost as though the camera itself is so anxious it does not know who to capture, so it incessantly switches between the two.  The swiftness of the cuts typifies Zuckerberg.

The film maintains this personification throughout and is ultimately as ingenious as Zuckerberg himself.  Zuckerberg’s dialogue consciously tells important details of the plot, but the film’s cinematic embodiment of its anti-hero is how, on an unconscious level, the film conveys an understanding of Zuckerberg to the audience.  Specifically, by using Zuckerberg’s coldness and anxiety as inspiration for the frequent cuts, Zuckerberg’s presence is more comprehensively expressed in The Social Network

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~ by Kate Bellmore on 20/02/2011.

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