The eighth film from director David Fincher has three stories interwoven both at pivotal but different points in time, based on the creation of the social network site Facebook.
The Social Network is centred on Facebook’s founders and in particular the resulting lawsuits brought against CEO Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg). This was the unorthodox script structure and initiative undertaken by screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, whose plot tells the story of Zuckerberg and the creation of Facebook on the Harvard campus in which he studied, while two other present subplots consist of the two resulting lawsuits in deposition rooms.
One is based on co-founder Eduardo Saverin’s (Andrew Garfield) lawsuit against Zuckerberg for unwarranted dilution of company owned shares. The other is an accusation of Facebook being based on a stolen idea that originally belonged to Harvard peers, Tyler and Cameron Winkelvoss (Armie Hammer). It is important to note here that the deposition room consists of the only scene in which all three character’s stories connect, with Saverin sitting in on the Winkelvoss lawsuit as a witness for the accusations of stealing against Zuckerberg. To tell these three stories in a chronological order would have created a much more mundane and typical type of Hollywood film, seen all too often in recent times.
Fincher’s role in all of this as director is pivotal, as he is well known not only for his hard and fast work ethic, but also as a pioneer of digital film, shooting his most recent movies in their entirety within that medium. This forms an important part of the editing process that creates the visual structure of Sorkin’s non-linear narrative. We are given clues to each detail that affects the lawsuits in flashbacks, however we see most of the deposition room sequence before we know the full story. This keeps the audience on their toes, creating a heightened sense of curiosity and engagement, when compared to a typical chronological story, and in particular that of the courtroom-drama genre.
Fincher’s use of non-linear structure and rule-breaking as a director are characteristic of his work. This supports the view that Fincher assumes the audience to be engaged and intelligent enough to keep up with the pace of the narrative. The commercial and critical success of The Social Network suggests that as an audience, we are becoming more accepting of non-linear storytelling and are the ones truly reaping the rewards in terms of cinematic entertainment and appreciation.
Mark Zuckerberg originally planned never to see this movie. He ended up taking several of his employees to see it. He later remarked that, despite some of the film’s inaccuracies, they got his clothing right.