Comedy / Drama / Films / Thriller

Fight Club

Fight Club has an interesting backstory. Its author, Chuck Palahniuk, had previously written Invisible Monsters, which was deemed too disturbing by his publishers, who subsequently rejected it. Having something of a dark sense of humour, Palahniuk decided to write an even more disturbing novel, a novel which could never be published, and Fight Club was born. The idea came after Palahniuk received a facial injury whilst camping and was struck by his coworker’s reaction to it; they didn’t say anything. Their unwillingness to question what was going on in his life was the germ from which Fight Club was born. The novel was picked up by 20th Century Fox and given to enthusiastic newcomer, David Fincher, who had previously made the fantastic and horrifying thriller SevenFight Club unfortunately didn’t make a killing at the box-office and garnered a lot of negative attention, before a subsequent critical re-appraisal hailed it as one of the best movies of the 90s, and ultimately one of the finest products to come out of Generation X. These days, whilst the film is now considered as the classic it rightfully is, Fight Club has been hampered by its own reputation, the go-to movie of misguided teenage boys, one now more famous for its twist than its plot. That however shouldn’t take away from the experience. Fight Club is a powerful movie and one worth discussing in detail.fight3Edward Norton plays an unnamed protagonist who we’ll call Jack (based on a series of Reader’s Digest narrations he reads throughout). Jack is suffering from insomnia and has become detached from the daily monotony of his life and work. Searching for a means to feel something, he begins attending help-groups for the sick, where he meets Bob (Meatloaf), a man suffering from life-post testicular cancer, and fellow-faker Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter), whom Jack initially despises. Jack happens to run into extroverted, semi-madman and free thinker Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) and the two end up living together after a mysterious explosion destroys Jack’s condo. After a strange consensual fight, the two decide to open up a ‘fight club,’ where men like themselves, equally lost in life, can come to really feel something again. But as Tyler descends into out-right anarchy and begins recruiting for an army, Jack realises that his recently discovered new world may not be so perfect after all.fight11David Fincher is an excellent director and one perfectly suited for this material. The director’s style mirrors the ethos of the movie, with the dull, real life elements such as offices looking green and washed out, and the free-worlds of Tyler bright, but worn down, decrepit and filthy. The cinematography is stunning throughout and Fincher’s confident use of camera, which seems to flit between styles and sets as though alive, helps to create a fully realised, horrifically detailed yet everyday cityscape. It’s a dark movie in tone, and whilst other directors would have made a bleak film here, Fincher isn’t afraid of humour and lets his characters laugh at the situations they find themselves in. The score and use of music throughout is strong and there’s a great sense of energy to Fight Club; it never slows down and it’s never boring; the pacing is superb. This feels like the right movie to end the 90s on, and essentially sums up the entire decade’s style of post-modernism and independence. fight8This is a near perfect adaptation of Palahniuk’s novel – it perfectly captures his nihilistic world view and satirical tone, and it’s easy to see why the author loved the movie. The film explores the themes of advertising and consumerism and how they’ve impacted Generation X’s sense of life fulfilment. The world has been taken over by the corporations and goals in life relate to furniture; several scenes serve as satirical jabs at modern culture – it’s what the film lives for really. The most noticeable example being Norton’s run-down of his Ikea sponsored flat. This is the death of culture, when everything is packaged and bought and mass-produced, where an individual validates themselves on the things they own. Whilst these ideas don’t sound new on paper, Fight Club is one of the few films to perfectly sum them up in movie form; rarely has a film captured the sense of disassociation that comes with modern life. This is partly the reason why the novel was so scary for publishers – the material questions the make-up of society, by claiming that the goalposts by which the world measures worth are meaningless. It cuts close to home, and Fight Club’s view is scary, despite the humorous nature of the film. Left without fulfilment, the men of the movie turn to violence, which is presented in graphic, powerful detail, a shock to try and wake the audience up with the characters. fight2The film deals with consumerism in an existential way and does so from the point of view of men. Fight Club is one of the most interesting cinematic discussions on masculinity, and what this means for culture. It’s not so much that men are dead, it’s that as the film suggests, a generation of men raised without fathers lack authority figures and absorb feminine influence. They don’t have identity. If the father is a stand in for god in a young man’s life, and most young men are raised without fathers, then it stands to reason that god hates the men, who must then rebel for attention. These are men with no traditional role in society who are expected to be fulfilled by catalogue shopping and the movie examines this notion when pushed to its breaking point. Hence the fight clubs themselves. There’s a comment here on masculine identity when its been chipped away by consumer culture, and how men must adapt to survive, when they’re really nothing but 30 year old boys. It’s easy to see why the movie made such a big impact on men’s culture. Yet despite that, the movie has a strong homoerotic current. Jack and Tyler are extremely close; Jack is jealous of Tyler and Marla, the two argue, they are naked in front of each other, they fight bareback with other men. The homoerotic tone both works to subvert attention from the twist ending, but also comments on fragmented male identity, the film asking for a society without women, who the characters feel have failed them. The psychoanalytic nature of the movie, especially with its Oedipal notions of sons and fathers, is fascinating. fight10However, and perhaps frustratingly, for its comments on consumerism, lost masculinity and all that’s wrong in the world, Fight Club offers no solutions. It’s a movie which questions but adds no answers, and that essentially is the point. This is a movie based on anarchy and chaos, one which revels in nihilism, and the ambigiouty throughout helps create a dizzying and disorientating world view. It seems unlikely however that Fincher and Palahniuk believe they’ve crafted the ultimate Generation X Bible. There’s a knowingness to Fight Club which suggests we’re not meant to take it too seriously. For example, we’re told that the world as we know it is deadening and cold, that Tyler’s world view is superior. But when Tyler goes further, and begins Project Mayhem, the narrator pulls away from him – Tyler goes too far. Neither world quite works. Taken this way, it can be argued that the entire point of the movie is a love story, or at least, the story of man trying to fight his loneliness. Striping away everything from the film – its consumerism, its anarchy – you’re left with nothing but Jack and Marla, and the film’s final shot suggests that maybe, it was all about them connecting away, despite the world around them. Fight Club at its core, is a movie about a lonely man reaching out for something. That’s its centre, and that’s what saves it from being meaningless.fight6It’s also a stunningly well acted movie, with the three leads all on top form playing amazing characters. Norton is worn down, sad but likeable as Jack; he feels like an everyman and we can relate to him. We could almost be him. There’s a sense of that guy in the office who is nice, but who you don’t really know, who could potentially see more than he lets on and snap at any second. By contrast, Pitt’s Tyler is sexy, loud, magnetic and irresistible, with an element of the unhinged which becomes more pronounced throughout the movie. He works almost like the Joker, undercutting expected society norms and basking in anarchy. Tyler Durden is one of cinema’s strongest antagonists and a fantastically fun character; this is Pitt’s best role and he seems to be having the time of his life. The two leads serve as contrasts of one another. As Jack progresses into the film. he becomes paler, more worn down, yet as Tyler goes on and becomes stronger, he becomes more vibrant, fitter – a deliberate effect, Pitt continued to work out during production whilst Norton was starving himself. It’s clear that Tyler represents the id here, the inner self, cathartic for Jack without ever being empathetic. Both actors have amazing chemistry and are one of cinema’s most fascinating ‘couples.’ Bonham Carter, in a film made of men, actually presents a realistic but funny portrayal of a lonely yet strong woman who exists independently without anyone else in the world. She’s the bitter heart of the movie, and nails every scene she’s in. Like Pitt, this is her best performance. fight5Much has been made of the twist ending, and like The Sixth Sense, Fight Club is one of those movies more famous for its surprise than its content. The twist here (spoilers for anyone living in 1999) is that Jack and Tyler are one and the same, and it’s one of the best in cinema. What works is that it plays into notions almost suggested in the film – those of the ego versus the id, the subconscious – and does so in a clever way. The twist is not gimmicky – crucially, there’s a lot of evidence for it throughout the movie, so much so that on second viewing Fight Club feels completely different. Notice in particular scenes between Norton, Pitt and Carter together, and then see them from Marla’s POV. Fincher flashes subliminal shots of Tyler onto screen before he appears, suggesting that he’s always been there, waiting to break out. The twist here is so well executed, so confident, and so beneficial, it’s really just a great, memorable bonus which serves to strengthen an already great movie.fight1There is a lot going on in Fight Club. It’s a great movie on so many levels. A fantastic novel, commenting on modern life and masculinity, adapted by one of the finest directors working today and presented with a stellar cast of actors. There’s a lot which can be said about the movie, but to sum it up, Fight Club is the ultimate product of both Generation X and the 90s, and whilst it remains relevant to this day, it was a great movie for the century to end on. A brilliant satire and powerful psychological drama, this is one to be remembered.

5/5

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2 thoughts on “Fight Club

  1. Pingback: Alien 3 (1992) | Some Films and Stuff

  2. Pingback: Gone Girl – Review | Some Films and Stuff

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