A television network cynically exploits a deranged former anchor’s ravings and revelations about the news media for its own profit.
Network, having been released in 1976, is 42 years old. And, yet, somehow it manages to fit in tremendously well in this day and age. It managed to predict the future, and it’s unbelievably eerie.
As the synopsis above states, Network is a film about a television network, the made up UBS, and their use and exploitation of a former news anchor who is clearly in the midst of a complete and utter mental breakdown. They see Howard Beale, said news anchor, as a moneymaking tool. That is, until they don’t and need to find a way to stop the monster that they have created.
The screenplay, written by Paddy Chayefsky, is one that contains some of the best and seemingly natural dialogue that I have ever heard. I was in constant awe of it. Of course, the actors helped with that. Honestly, there’s not one bad performance in this film. Absolutely everybody blew my mind away, in particular, Faye Dunaway and William Holden. But, even down to the minor characters, the performances were phenomenal.
Ned Beatty’s performance as Arthur Jensen is unforgettable. Also, Beatrice Straight gives one hell of a performance for her role as Louise Schumacher. In fact, she won her one and only Academy Award for this film, and she couldn’t have been on screen and speaking for more than five minutes. That woman was incredible.
I was also in awe of the lighting in this film. It was so good that it needs mentioning in this post. Not one time was there too much or too little shadow on anybody’s face. In particular, the lighting of Faye Dunaway in this film was spot on. There was just enough shadow on her face throughout the film that made you go “Hm. Maybe I shouldn’t trust this woman”.
This film is often described as a satire. A satire, by definition, is the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices. The thing is, though, this doesn’t feel like a satire at all. Even in the end when (spoiler alert for a film that came out 40+ years ago) the network arranges for their lovely, lunatic host to be shot and killed on national television, due to his bad ratings, none of it feels like a satire. The exaggeration, the exploitation, the corporate control; those are all very real things in our network news now. Watching this film in the year 2018, it feels like it should have been taken more seriously as a warning. Then maybe we could have fixed it.