No one, however, has seen their career trajectory as completely altered as Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. The social network only won three Oscars: Best Adapted Screenplay, for Sorkin’s magnificent screenplay craft, Best Film Editing, and Best Music. It was Reznor and Ross’ first-ever score, and they hit the majority of it the first time they sat down to work.
When Fincher asked Reznor if he wanted to work with him, he initially blanched and said no. Reznor had just finished touring with Nine Inch Nails, had just gotten married, had never composed a film before. Unsure of his ability to tackle a new discipline, he approached his longtime friend and collaborator Ross, who encouraged him, and then the duo began bouncing sounds around the studio and sending files to Fincher. They didn’t know if the music they were making would be too harsh, too dark. They composed approximately 16 tracks, each lasting three and a half to eight minutes.
The sketches they sent to Fincher were meant as a mood board, a sampler. “Hand Covers Bruise,” that tremolo and piano track that ended up serving as the film’s de facto theme, was track seven on the playlist, and neither Reznor nor Ross attached much importance to it. But Fincher’s sound editor, Ren Klyce, took those cues and filled the film with them; the first draft became the score. When Fincher brought in Reznor and Ross to screen a rough cut and those piano notes floated over the credits, Reznor got goosebumps.
Fincher knew exactly what he wanted when he hired Reznor. Without the music, the film sheds its shadows and morphs into a standard comedy-drama about Sorkin’s workplace. There would be no menacing undertones to the increasingly ridiculous saga of the Winklevoss twins, clinging to their vision of “Harvard Connect,” chasing Mark Zuckerberg across campus and then through the courts, stopping to chat with Larry. Summers. On paper, the film is talkative, funny, frothy, observant – Reznor described the 40-minute rough cut he saw, with tempered rock songs, like “a little feel-good, John Hughes-ish” . The music is blade runner, The brilliant; the sound of a young Harvard nerd inventing dystopia in his head.
At any time, you can peek under the music and see the alternate movie – ancient, weightless – playing below. When Divya Narendra (played by Max Minghella) discovers that Zuckerberg, the prawn programmer he hired to create his Harvard Connect website, has launched Facebook, he falls backwards from his chair during an a capella rehearsal – a patented Sorkin screwball fingerboard. But as he trots through the night, a nightmarish sound enters the track, a melted scream straight out of György Ligeti’s “Lontano.” The tone clusters weren’t generated with string sections, but with an analog synth called Swarmatron, which generates skin glissandi that make you forget you’re basically watching a Harvard kid jogging around in a tuxedo.