“The Social Network” – Thoughts on the new trailer

It’s rare that a trailer really makes my ears perk up except in the case of trying to identify what score they’re stealing the music from.  But every now and then, there is a trailer that is a well done melding of music and image that is a piece of art in and of itself.  The first Inception trailers did that, as did the first Watchmen trailer (going all the way back to my first real post on this blog).  Well, as I was sitting in the theatre on Saturday anxiously awaiting my 10:50 AM (yes, I like the cheap matinees) screening of Inception to start, the trailer for David Fincher’s (he of Alien3, Fight Club, Se7en, and most recently The Curious Case of Benjamin Button fame) latest film came up – The Social Network.  The film is about the creating and founding of Facebook, mildly interesting, but the trailer…well watch it first and then let’s talk.

When I first saw it, it took me a bit to identify the song used, but after a minute I recognized Radiohead’s “Creep,” but in a, for lack of a better phrase, hauntingly beautiful choral arrangement.  And despite everything that I talked about in yesterday’s post about Inception, that song also stuck in my ear and I finally had to look it up.  It is done by a Belgian girls choir called (confusingly) the Scala & Kolacny Brothers.  But that’s not what I really want to talk about, I want to parse the trailer itself, because when a song is used well in a trailer, such as it is here, it pays to take about how it is used.  For me, it helps to identify why I had a particular reaction to the audiovisual content.

First, the song itself.  “Creep” was Radiohead’s breakout hit in 1993 (though first released the year before) that brought them to the attention of the alternative rock scene.  It features an interesting chord progression for the verses, G major – B major – C major – C minor, that –  for me – is one of the most interesting features of the song.  The arrangement itself is fairly standard, with a falsetto bridge by Thom Yorke being one of the few defining features, along with Jonny Greenwood’s guitar crushes leading into the chorus.  If you don’t know the song, just type it into YouTube and you’ll get numerous videos.

The choral arrangement featured in the trailer strips the rock instrumentation down to a lonely piano to provide a gently rocking, chordal accompaniment to the choir vocals (click here for a full video of their performance).  The overall effect is hard to put into words.  It helps to emphasize the lyrics, gives it a quasi-religious overtone, but also evokes the feel of piano artists like Ben Folds or Elton John or Billy Joel.  Also, acoustically, there is something about the nature of the range between the register of the choir voices and the piano and the differences of the timbre that gives it a space that also reinforces a quality of hearing a performance in a cathedral.  Further…there is an almost collegiate glee club quality to the fact that it is a simple choir and piano arrangement fitting with the film’s Harvard University setting.  In and of itself, it a beautiful arrangement and performance, but when it is melded with the images of the trailer, it takes on new levels of meaning.

But how is the song itself manipulated?  How are the lyrics used and interpreted?  Well, for the trailer, they begin the song with the second verse and proceed into the bridge, but then cut off at the end of the bridge to allow for some final dialogue and then end with the last line of the final chorus.  The lyrics as heard in the trailer (with famous radio edit of “very” instead of “fucking”) are:

I don’t care if it hurts
I want to have control
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul
I want you to notice
When I’m not around
You’re so very special
I wish I were special
But I’m a creep
I’m a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here
I don’t belong here
She’s running out the door
She’s running out
She run, run, run, run
I don’t belong here.

I would hope that it is fairly evident from the editor’s careful lyric selection why this song was chosen, but I’ll go ahead and put in my thoughts.

The first two stanzas used are played against a montage of Facebook like screens: pictures, images of mouse cursors, status updates, etc.  Each scene of the montage is related in some way to the lyric itself.  For example “I want a perfect body” as we see an athlete after finishing a raise and a woman in a bathing suit climbing out of a pool, both examples of “a perfect body.”  Then for “I want a perfect soul” as we see a wedding photo and the picture of a just born infant (prominently featured the “soles” of his feet…a bit punny for my tastes).  The large implication of the two pictures is that of a wedding as a merging of two souls and that of a just born human soul.  The bigger picture of this verse being selected is a commentary on the whole idea of a “social network.”  The idea that all of our lives are so special that it warrants status updates and such informing friends and whoever what we are doing minute to minute (in my case, today announcing that I was getting an oil change…spread the news!).

The song is about longing for inclusion in a group, but eventual exclusion, “I don’t belong here,” because they’re a creep, a weirdo.  The somewhat voyeuristic first four lines of the second verse, someone longing for someone else’s life, body and soul, contrasted with their own sense of loneliness in their longing (in the second stanza) for someone, anyone, to notice when they are not there, is exactly the nature of Facebook, MySpace, and other social networking sites.  We want to be noticed, we feed off it.  Even blogging is a facet of this need for attention and validation of one’s life.

The last two lines of the verse, “You’re so very special / I wish I were special,” play as a digitized photo of actor Jesse Eisenberg as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg comes into focus.  Implying, possibly, that he created Facebook out of his own loneliness and fears, something that is somewhat hinted at in the scene that follows in the trailer as the song segues into the chorus.  He explains his wanting to do something so that he would be invited into one of Harvard’s exclusive clubs (this is a Harvard thing, like fraternities and sororities…but more Ivy League).

The balance of the trailer is a standard montage of scenes to give the audience a sense of the film’s plot, but are edited quite well to follow the pace of the song, especially as it moves into the soaring falsetto bridge (“She’s running out the door,” etc.).  The final “I don’t belong here,” is heard as the film’s title and logo, in a Facebook style, is seen.  A wonderful juxtaposition of meaning, a statement about exclusion against an image of modern society’s ultimate expression of inclusion.

A wonderfully made trailer that has made me interested to see the film itself.  Hopefully it won’t let me down like Watchmen did.

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