The Social Network is gripping, KCA brings world classics to Bangalore

It's not revolutionary cinema from David Fincher, but The Social Network does manage to remain a gripping account on Silicon Valley start ups and the engine that is driving the global social media revolution.

It’s been a busy week at the movies in Bangalore. Even as the much awaited The Social Network opened in theatres, the Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy’s International film festival opened at three different venues in the city, screening 85 films between November 8 and14, 2010. Besides its presence in the city, the festival also expected to move to Bidar, Dharwad, Mangalore and Shimoga.  Citizen Matters caught up with some of the festival’s weekend fare.

The Social Network (USA)

The Social NetworkThis film on the making of Facebook runs with the tagline "You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies". That indeed sums up the game changing nature of Facebook even as the phenomenon crosses over onto the silver screen. But in another curious reverse phenomenon of our times, the film also moves back into cyberspace as it becomes the topic for many heated debates over numerous Internet forums. This is director David Fincher’s The Social Network.

With films like Fight Club, Seven and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button behind him, there is always a fair degree of interest around David Fincher’s cinema. Yet this film, adapted from Ben Mezrich’s 2009 nonfiction book The Accidental Billionaires, is a slight departure from his previous work.

For those who will not read a book on a similar theme, the film is informative in documentary style and a glimpse into the making of Facebook. While the film is told in flashback mode, the style of narration is still fairly linear and one sorely misses the complex psycho analysis reminiscent of Fight Club. This is not a film that exists at multiple levels, and even when it turns its lens on the huge egos and small hearts behind some of Silicon Valley’s murky dealings, there is none of the brooding darkness that makes Fincher’s previous work. 

Yet the story telling style of the film works, perhaps because of Fincher’s trademark brisk pace, supported by crisp editing – both of which were first made famous in Seven. The film is also redeemed by an intense intelligent dark humour that runs through its core, and is a development in Fincher’s film-making style.

The performances are credible and meet the demands made by a documentary style script. While most of the characters have been written in single layers (again one always expects more from Fincher), this film will do much to further establish Mark Zuckerberg’s icon like status amongst Generation Next.

So a rating of 3 on 5 for The Social Network. It’s not revolutionary cinema from David Fincher, but it does manage to remain a gripping account on Silicon Valley start ups and the creation of the engine that is driving the global social media revolution.


Sixth of May (Netherlands)

Directed by Theo van Gogh, Sixth of May  belongs to the genre of incisive fast paced political conspiracy thrillers that take you racing through the muck and grime that have become inherent to contemporary powerful global governments. Based on Tomas Ross’ The sixth of May, the film uses the landscape of the real life assassination of Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn, astutely weaving fact with fiction to script its plot.

The film that turns a questioning look at the Netherlands’ political structure is part of the larger body of fearless film-making that saw Theo publicly murdered in 2004 for Submission, a film that was critical of the treatment of women under Islam. Sixth of May is the last film that he completed before his death at the age of 47.   

While the action in Sixth of May is situated in the Netherlands, a global audience still instinctively responds to its themes of corruption in high places, the growing influence of extreme right wing politics and the helplessness of ordinary people caught in its cross fire.   

Yet Theo van Gogh’s film is not simply a work of political activism. Instead he combines suspense with its loaded questioning. Even as the all pervasive corruption in high places stands exposed, you wonder how this film will end.

Crisp editing takes the action forward at a fast pace that requires you to pay attention to every little detail, and you are left at the edge of your seat as you follow the film through its many unexpected twists and turns.

So a rating of 4 on 5 for Sixth of May – a riveting political expose that pushes the boundaries of the traditional political conspiracy thriller.


The Son of the Bride (Argentina)

Son of the BrideIt’s not often that you find a film that celebrates the art of story telling, even as it takes the audience through a kaleidoscope of emotions, exploring themes like the individual’s journey, the meaning of love, the coming of old age and ties that bind families. Director Juan José Campanella‘s The Son of the Bride does all of that, even as it mixes the joyous abandon of unrestrained laughter with the loneliness of silent tears.

The film is the story of a middle aged divorced restaurateur Rafael Belvedere’s (Ricardo Darín)journey to find the true meaning of success, even as his father Nino (Héctor Alterio) celebrates the meaning of love in his own life as he decides to marry Rafael’s mother Norma ((Norma Aleandro), as they had never been married in the Catholic church. But Norma, now suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, lives her life on a different plain of reality. All three journeys impact and transform the other.

The Son of the Bride could very easily have been just another film about life mid-life crisis, but the triumph of this film lies in the people who make the story. Characters in the film have been sketched to intricate detail and are always meant to be more than cardboard props that merely support the script. So The Son of the Bride becomes a rare film that has a story to tell, and yet also explores the richness in the characters that inhabit the telling of the tale.

The actors play their part admirably, giving substance to the different shades of these characters and so bring the film to life.

For all these reasons that I will go with a rating of 4 on 5 for The Son of the Bride, a film that celebrates the beauty of multi-dimensional story telling on the silver screen. It is a rare film whose complexity is also born of extreme simplicity. 


Sophie Scholl- The Final Days (Germany)

Sophie SchollMany of the greatest films of all time tell the story of people who sacrifice all to live and then die by self belief. There is something about unrelenting, unselfish heroism that never fails to inspire the human spirit. So it is with director Marc Rothemund’s Sophie Scholl- The Final Days.

The film dramatizes the real life incidents that led to the execution of German students Sophie Scoll (Julia Jentsch) and her brother Hans (Fabian Hinrichs) for their resistance of Nazi ideology in Germany during the Second World War. The brother and sister launched a spirited defence in People’s Court before they were executed on February 22, 1943.

The film throws the youthful idealism demonstrated during one of the darkest periods in Europe’s history into the contemporary world. While this has been done often enough, Sophie Scholl- The Final Days must rate amongst the finest films made on Nazi Germany. At one level it is no different from all the films on war that have gone before, and the story sticks to predictable lines. Yet it is elevated by the conviction of its vision and the strength of its performances. Together they appeal to the audience’s heart with quiet direct simplicity.

Good writing gives the film its pace and powerful dialogues bring their touch of greatness. Both create a film that will linger with you after the last light has been turned on in the cinema hall.

So a rating of 4 on 5 for Sophie Scholl- The Final Days. It returns to one of the most frequently discussed eras in Western cinematic history, and still retains a fresh perspective and a powerful vision that cannot but influence the world.

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