99 retakes. That’s what it took Jesse Eisenberg (Mark Zuckerberg) and Rooney Mara (Erica Albright) to pull-off the opening scene in David Fincher’s The Social Network. It’s a one shot, filmed through multiple cameras simultaneously and the result, as Eisenberg puts it later, is “one of the most satisfying scenes as an actor”.
‘How the hell did they make a movie on Facebook?’ or The Making of The Social Network is a documentary that reveals many such trivia about the film. It’s available as a bonus disc with the DVD of The Social Network and my oh my, it is a whopper! Not because it has a unique story to tell, but because it gets the viewer very close to the actual filming like no other film has done before. For example, you get to be a fly on the wall during the long, arduous, screenplay discussions between David Fincher, Aaron Sorkin, Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake. And you learn that every line in Sorkin’s script has been chewed upon, thought over, its rationale questioned and subsequently internalised by the actors.
You learn that Fincher is a bit of a Sanjay Leela Bhansali as a director - extremely meticulous with detail - not stopping from taking multiple retakes until he gets the perfect shot. For example, he gave the cast about 3 weeks for rehearsals - a generous measure by Hollywood standards. He also proves to be a fantastic bouncing board for Sorkin and Eisenberg. A discussion on the ‘I’m CEO, bitch’ label on Zuckerberg’s visiting card is particularly interesting.
Sorkin - who in my view is the real hero of the film - also shares his own relationship with writing. He confesses that he doesn’t understand plots, instead he loves “the sound of dialogues”. His passion for everything verbose shows in the movie - there are some racy verbal exchanges between the characters, almost like they’re biting each other with words. In many ways, it is Sorkin who makes a film about a lawsuit into something more universal, by touching upon themes that stimulate great storytelling - jealousy, loyalty, betrayal, anger. You then slowly begin to understand why Fincher wants every line to be perfect - it’s because the nature of the script doesn’t allow on-the-spot improvisation by the actors.
The documentary also gives us a glimpse of Jesse Eisenberg which we don’t get to see in the movie - you’ll see him laugh. He giggles every now and then when Fincher explain him a scene. On the sets, he’s very much like the young management trainee in office - attentive to information, nods diligently, is hard working and has the energy of a tireless man. You also get to see more of the very handsome Armie Hammer who plays Cameron Winklevoss. Some fantastic special effects have been used merge his head with the body of actor Josh Pence, to create the other twin, Tyler Winklevoss. Honestly, when you see the film you believe them to be twins. The documentary takes us up-close to the pains of filming their scenes.
I particularly enjoyed the interviews with the editors of the film, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall - two men who were tasked with sifting through 268 hours of footage, to create a film that’s under 2 hours long. They clearly understand Fincher’s nature of working which adheres strictly to “old school film law”. It is their efforts which accentuate each dialogue. As a viewer you will only realise the merit of their efforts after you see The Social Network once again, after viewing this documentary.
There are also the some fun behind-the-scenes trivia. Like Aaron Sorkin’s two-line special appearance in the film, the number of laptops Andrew Garfield breaks in his final scene, Eisenberg’s heart going out to Josh Pence, the uncredited Winklevoss twin. My favourite though is Fincher disappearing from the sets, asking Sorkin to direct one rather harmless scene in the film. Sorkin takes up the challenge, okays that scene in two takes, but Fincher’s assistant insists that they take many more takes, Fincher doesn’t accept any shot within just two takes! LOL!
I loved the way executive producer Kevin Spacey sums up the film. “It’s like watching a very enjoyable car crash, since it’s a very brutal film about ambition.” I’d agree. I’m sure students of cinema, fans of The Social Network, budding script writers and film-makers, actors will learn a lot after watching and studying not just the documentary, but also the main film.
It’s the most power-packed DVD in a long time, one that takes its bonus features seriously. Buy the DVD. Put some flowers around it. It is certainly the pride of your DVD collection.
- Violence: Not overt
- Language: Cuss words beeped out
- Nudity & Sexual content: Some striptease scenes
- Concept: The founding of Facebook and its turbulent ownership
- General Look and Feel: Extremely classy