Network (1976) – Exploit the Victim

Sidney Lumet, personally, is the most directors who got me back to the past. I think of him as one of the directors who made me want to explore classic movies. It’s a long journey for today. I mean, how can you simulate 12 people trapped in one room for more than one hour? “12 Angry Men” is just one of the best courtroom drama and the best timeless cult-classic. But now, here is “Network,” another cult-classic satire movie masterpiece. We know this film as the man as hell or the mad prophet, Peter Finch as Howard Beale. However, we know this film further as one of the most relevant nowadays. This is the dark side of the television and media, how they play games and exploit their victims from behind.

This is a story about Howard Beale, a veteran anchorman who go insane. He tried to shoot himself live on television. His life is a mess. There is an unresolved family problem. As well as his rating going down. However, his seriousness considered as entertainment. People like it as long as it is entertainment. Faye Dunaway as Diana Christensen, an executive programmer who prepared to do anything as long as it relates to her role. He is hungry for ratings, hungry for views, and hungry for everything. On the other hand, there is William Holden as Max Schumacher. This news executive becomes a corrupt one. He is a victim and lover to Diana so he can make a profit. So with Diana, trying to use her prey. Most importantly, what really happened to Howard after that.

Sidney Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky, the screenwriter, said: this is a dark serious movie. It’s a reflection of what happened behind and the audience’s view of the television and media shows. However, this film later said to be an outrageous Motion Picture of satire and dark comedy. This is a movie that you won’t stand out for most people, but this movie is a perfect illustration for such a thing. It’s a resemblance to the behind-the-scenes of a thing, especially media and television. Indeed, I prefer this film as a dark yet terrifying one. It illustrates television as a trash show. People want to eat trash. As long as it’s still entertainment, why not? As long as we can laugh, there will be no problem. The most terrible thing is, there is no moral in such a person anymore.

It’s not a thing when talking about trash. But, this was in the 1970s. Shockingly, it turns out there had been trash for a long time. Using trash word here is truly ambiguous. It’s unsubtle to it but I describe it as other meanings. “Network” is not just exploring television from behind. The film also illustrates how “sick” the people are behind it and also we as a society.

“The Waldo Moment” from “Black Mirror” is somewhat similar but it’s too clumsy which is full of mix review. Howard Beale “criticized” various kinds of problems that occurred at the time. He criticized governments, Arabs, capitalism, ageism, revolutionism, sexism, satire, exploitation, and various things. In the end, we don’t see it as a serious thing. But, it is entertainment. The most unique, I often see various kinds of show, especially talk shows that follow the same format.

This film filled with various kinds of debates, especially television. In fact, people from network and television ban this movie because it’s just a part of sensation. But, this movie nominated for 10 Oscars. Of these, the film won four awards for Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, Beatrice Straight, and Paddy Chayefsky. Peter Finch became the first posthumous winner in an acting category so Eletha Finch and Paddy Chayefsky received the award. Beatrice Straight got on-screen for five minutes and two seconds. Regardless of which, it was the briefest performance ever to win an Oscar.

I just noticed, after watching the movie, that the only music heard are from commercials and television show themes. There is nothing you could add like the soundtrack or else. Additionally, “Network” is a part of our pop culture that is so famous and phenomenal. Especially for Peter Finch as Howard Beale. According to Sidney Lumet, the “Mad as Hell” (which is one of the greatest pieces of acting I’ve ever seen) was filmed in one and a half takes. Peter Finch stopped in exhaustion several times. The movie takes the second take for the first half of speech and the second half of the first take. Therefore, Lumet was very concerned about Finch’s situation at that time.

We remember Howard Beale as the mad prophet or the man that couldn’t take it anymore. Peter Finch portrayed his character as an alcoholic. He was fired by his boss. Then, they get drunk together and joke about him committing suicide on air. But, that’s actually serious. After his rating dropped, he decided to kill himself. He thought, he seemed to lose his mind. More importantly, he is out of nonsense. It’s one of the greatest performance as the two-character personalities. He was driven by people who worked behind him, forced, and tried to stay on the air. He was driven into madness, went crazy, exploded, and finally fell.

The affair relationship between Max and Diana is out of the box, for me. However, this part is more unique when seen from a different perspective. Max and Diana didn’t really go through that affair. They actually only use each other. Although the scene when they express their mutual feelings, it’s not like that. In the end, both of them were described as two characters who were the opposite of the same mission. I found Beatrice Straight as Max’s wife the most human and moral character of all. Even though it has a small role, it’s so powerful. She portrayed a character who tried to hold everything back. After being pressured by Max, she took everything out. A simple life is no guarantee of a good relationship. But, she is the one that describes the complaints and empathy of the audience.

This is a movie where I predicted there will be a bad thing. The ending, I think, will be like that. But, I was wrong. And I never expected it such a thing. Howard Beale’s character is inspired by an anchorman woman, Christine Chubbuck. She was known for being the first person to commit suicide on a live television broadcast. This film is indeed so complex that it will be a suicidal tendency and depression. Seeing this movie as behind-the-scenes just caught me so terrifying. In fact, we always don’t realize it if we are a part of it. By the way, just love when you can spot closely at the end. This film is a debut for Tim Robbins. He stated that he didn’t play the part. In fact, he was a senior high school at the time.

“Network” is an outrageous rare picture which feels so relevant until this day. All the performance takes everything. Robert Duvall and all of them. Sidney Lumet’s direction also reminds me a little about “12 Angry Men” because of its camera movement. Paddy Chayefsky as the writer writes dialogues and complex characters. However, he sometimes doesn’t know where to go. Because there are too many to criticize and discuss, the dialogue is gimmicky as some part but is one of the best. When it first premiered, this film may be a flaw. However, this is a satire dark comedy that leaves you with a thousand questions. Have you become a better person? Have you become a smarter person? Who knows. We are not aware that even for one second, we become a part of entertainment and exploitations. This movie is just a masterpiece and critically analyzed.

5 out of 5 stars.

Salman Al Farisi

An Indonesian who loves to watch and read everything. A literary student who likes to write about reviews and essays on Crackdown Review. But, I just wannabe critics who love arthouse than anything.

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