“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.” who can forget Howard Beale’s (Peter Finch) exciting speech, that expresses the feeling of millions of viewers?
Beale is a news anchor, who loses his mind after his wife’s death, his addiction to alcohol, and his dismissal from his job due to his weak rating, instead of announcing that he would leave the show like anyone else would do in his place, he declares that he will commit suicide on live television, thus he becomes the talk of the media, and he stays on the show to keep presenting shocking speeches, and keeps on getting more famous.
The movie depicts the TV industry, especially the news, as a heartless and conscienceless business, that would use Beale as long as he makes a profit, and discard him as soon as he loses his value as a desired commodity.
Howard Beale (Peter Finch):
He is charismatic, even though the movie clearly shows that he is insane. However his words holds a lot of truths that is almost impossible to disregard, which makes us await his next revealing speech.
Finch managed to portray the character’s mental deterioration, he also succeeded in dazzling us with his confident and captivating revelation, his screams remind us of an angry prophet, who instills fear in his audience’s mind, which makes them follow his guidance without any doubt or criticism, a manipulative trick that is still successfully used to this day.
Max Schumacher (William Holden):
His character is pale and boring in comparison to Beale’s, but this is intended. Max is Beale’s friend, and he is the only person who attempts to help him when he realize his insanity; he is also the sole resister -for a small period of time- to the strong current of the media.
Max is the only “human” in the movie, his presence is not for entertainment or bedazzlement; he is there to analyze and to warn about would happen to the “normal human” when he surrenders to the power of media and economy.
Holden’s performance was quite suitable for the role; he didn’t try to steal the spotlight from Beale or Christensen, which is in accordance with the movie’s message, unfortunately in his last conversation with Christensen he falls into some exaggeration and directness, which might be the fault of the writer more than the actor.
Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway):
She is an ambitious woman, who is moved by clear and uncomplicated motives, all she cares about is her career; she doesn’t mind using those who surround her to get what she wants; she is similar to her TV shows, where she mimics human emotions, while she herself – by her own confession- is heartless.
Dunaway succeeded in keeping up with Finch’s amazing performance, she honestly depicts the character’s details that we can not love, but we can not ignore either.
It is the true hero of the movie; it is alive with its characters that reveal to us facts about life and humanity, which creates some sort of irony, as the scenario condemns those who depend on TV to get their facts and learn about life, the movie attempts to offer us facts about life that you may have not known before.
Even though some scenes are direct and preachy, the movie is also filled with unforgettable speeches like “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.”
The writer is Paddy Chayefsky, and we can’t help but notice his genius in writing. The feelings of anger, disappointment, and fear which this speech reflects, is still relatable today, which makes us believe that the writer managed to capture some truth, that we can always reach.
Cinematography and Direction:
Not only the scenario is praise worthy, but also the direction in its design for each frame, which assists in the process of the text’s interpretation, like the scene where Mr. Jensen (Ned Beatty) attempts to explain to Beale the way, in which the world works.
Jensen is transformed from a salesperson to a businessman to a god in his most sacred temple (the meeting room).
The light is on him, which makes him the center of the image and the center of knowledge, the other lights in the room create virtual lines that point to him, which add to his power; the meeting table creates a great distance between the god Jensen and his chosen prophet Beale.
Jensen moves into darkness when he starts talking about the system’s perfection, and the happiness it would accomplish to humanity, because while we realize that his declaration (about the world being moved by economy, and business deals) holds some truth, we never see that ideal part that provides all of humanity’s needs, that part always remains in the dark as unfulfilled promise.
In the end Jensen gets closer towards Beale to deliver him his message, and Jensen remains in the dark to keep the same distance between them.
The director Sidney Lumet, and cinematographer Owen Roizman have successfully designed the frames that would explain and emphasize the movie’s purpose.
Network is not just one of the best movies of the 70s, it is also one of the best American movies of all time, with its point of view that remains – after more than 4 decades- relevant, therefore it deserves – in my opinion- the rating: 9/10.