Hollywood produces two, seemingly similar, but in reality very different products: movies & films. Movies are the motion pictures from which we receive mindless, or nearly so, entertainment. Films are those motion pictures that are raised to a higher level. They are those that cause us to leave the theater pondering out the answer to a bigger question. They have symbolism, messages. They make us think. Sidney Lumet’s Network is solidly in the film network. It has, by this day entered into that even higher class of motion pictures: classics.
While the most well known aspect of this film is certainty Howard Beale’s exclamation “I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!” the more memorable aspect of this film is the stark picture it paints of television. This picture of the ratings game television plays has never been so explicit and harsh as Lumet paints in his film. He paints the world of television as a fast, false, conniving, unfeeling, and cruel world where ratings rule the roost, ruin lives, and dictate every little detail. Max Shumacher, the voice of reason despite his still dubious morals puts it best.
“It’s too late, Diana. There’s nothing left in you that I can live with. You’re one of Howard’s humanoids. If I stay with you, I’ll be destroyed. Like Howard Beale was destroyed. Like Laureen Hobbs was destroyed. Like everything you and the institution of television touch is destroyed. You’re television incarnate, Diana: Indifferent to suffering; insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality. War, murder, death are all the same to you as bottles of beer. And the daily business of life is a corrupt comedy. You even shatter the sensations of time and space into split seconds and instant replays. You’re madness, Diana. Virulent madness. And everything you touch dies with you. But not me. Not as long as I can feel pleasure, and pain… and love.”-Max Shumacher, Network
Lumet’s tale has lost favor and popularity from it’s release but the 4 Oscar winning picture is more timely than ever in today world of 48 hour television weddings, exploitative & morals “reality” TV shows, and news divisions that think World News means one international story and a feature on a pizza parlor that won’t be going out of business after all. Network is a classic and it is one ever news-person, every network head, every person should see and consider.