Catfish meshes screens with real life

12 Jan

It’s the final stretch of winter break and that means boredom. Not that I’m complaining all that much. In just a few days my schedule will once again be revved up for the new semester.

But for a a few days I have a lot of time on my hands and that has meant ample opportunity to watch films.

Watching The Social Network last night followed by Catfish today has provided two spins on social networking.

Both films are controversial, but The Social Network has clearly been the more successful. You’re probably familiar with the story of TSN, but Catfish is hard to describe in any great detail without giving much away. It should suffice to say the story, shot in documentary style and presented as true, shows a young New York filmmaker’s burgeoning relationship over social networking with a Michigan family. Trust me, there is a big catch, but I won’t spoil it.

What kept my attention in Catfish was not so much the story but how the film interweaves the virtual and the real so well on the screen, and in a way that’s not really done in The Social Network (even though it’s about Facebook). At least in the early part of the film, shots of Facebook and smart phone screens and Macbook desktops are as numerous as shots of real people, real places, real things. A flight from New York to Colorado is shown as a Google Earth flyover. When Nev, the filmmaker, receives a text, we see the text on his iPhone screen.

I found the interweaving shots of the real and the virtual in this film very true to how many people, especially the 20-30 something young professionals crowd the documentary seems aimed at, actually live. In our lives, young people especially make less and less distinction between real interaction/real life and virutal (or electronic) communication. We spend our days in a blur between screens and physical reality. We don’t separate those realms as much as we use to.

Catfish is one of the first films I’ve seen that acknowledges this reality and embrace it visually on screen.

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