Okay, shortly after finishing Chuck Palahniuk’s “Fight Club,” I decided to (re)watch this cult film from 1999, starring Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, and Helena Bonham Carter in the lead roles, riding on the waves of impressions from the book.
You can read about the plot in my book review, but for that small percentage of the global population who have never watched the film/read the book, here’s a brief summary: The main character, the Narrator (Edward Norton), spends his boring life working at a dull company, and one of his rare pleasures is buying small IKEA furniture pieces (I think you now realize how empty this man’s life is 😅). However, he also suffers from insomnia, due to frequent business trips (by plane) and constant time zone changes. Instead of prescribing something for sleep, the doctor, responding to the Narrator’s plea of suffering, advises him to visit a support group for people with testicular cancer, “to see what real suffering is, my brother.” Although he has no testicular problems, the Narrator decides to follow this advice. Surprisingly, attending these meetings psychologically relieves him, and he manages to sleep again. But he becomes so “addicted” to these visits that he starts attending other support groups where people are suffering from quite terrible diseases (however, the Narrator isn’t really bothered by their problems, as it helps him sleep). Soon, he notices a woman named Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter) at these meetings, and they quickly realize that they are both pretenders, as they are not suffering from any diseases. Although they have, in principle, agreed to “divide” which support groups to attend (yes, you read that correctly), encountering Marla triggers the Narrator’s insomnia again.
On one of his business flights, the Narrator meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a charismatic soap salesman (“Entrepreneur, if you please!” – note from the subconscious) and occasional movie projectionist and waiter for elite events. His flexible, carefree attitude and interesting philosophical quips simply captivate the Narrator.
Unfortunately, our Narrator was out of luck, as he returned from his last business trip to find his apartment blown up… literally. An explosion had completely destroyed his apartment and everything in it.
As a savior, Tyler Durden appears, inviting the Narrator to live with him, meanwhile revealing his life wisdom and worldview.
And soon, Marla Singer gets involved in their relationship.
However, things are not at all as they seem…
Here I’ll stop regarding the plot. I really recommend reading the book review, as there will be a lot of spoilers from here on, which are necessary to better convey the film. 🙂
Let’s start with the acting. Edward Norton (“Birdman”, “American History X”, “Italian Job”) has, in my opinion, masterfully done his job as the Narrator, and it’s hard for me to imagine which actor at that time could have done a better job (especially in scenes where he fights himself). On the other hand, Brad Pitt (“World War Z”, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “Inglourious Basterds”, “Se7en”, “Meet Joe Black”), although he did a solid job at first glance, didn’t leave such a strong impression on me to remember him as Tyler Durden (admittedly, this role isn’t easy, especially if you’ve read the book and understand the complexity of Tyler Durden’s character). Don’t get me wrong, he’s an excellent actor with good films under his belt. But somehow, he didn’t fully “fit” the role for me (admittedly, I wonder how the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Johnny Depp, or Kenneth Branagh would have fared in this role). And in the film, Tyler Durden is portrayed much more immaturely than he is described in the book. As for Marla Singer, I would never have thought of any specific actress, but the quirky Helena Bonham Carter (“Merlin”, “Harry Potter”, “Alice in Wonderland”, “Les Misérables”) had already shown her potential, which would later make her a highly respected British actress. And the direction was handled by the famous David Fincher (“The Social Network”, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, “Love, Death & Robots” (you have my review of the series), “House of Cards”, “Se7en”) and I think there are no complaints here.
For a film shot in the late nineties, the visual and audio aspects are quite good.
A detail I particularly liked is the “breaking of the fourth wall,” when the Narrator addresses the audience while explaining some details from Tyler Durden’s life.
All in all, “Fight Club” is a dark, raw, aggressive, bloody, and dirty film (just like the house where the main characters live). Like the book, this film (definitely) won’t be to everyone’s taste. Many will (in my opinion) misinterpret it as glorifying aggression and destructiveness as a way to step out of the comfort zone. Rather, I see this film as a kind of warning to our society. The nineties were a pretty tough period for the whole world (especially for the former Yugoslavia), full of aggression and feelings of helplessness and loss. Ironically, this film makes even more sense twenty years later! We have people of all ages (especially the 20-40 year range) leading unfulfilling lives, full of fear, unprepared to face life’s challenges and step out of their comfort zone. It only takes a little manipulation (whether by media or individuals) to convince us that it’s perfectly fine to live in a cocoon of safety or, worse, to convince us to step out of our comfort zone, but in the wrong way (violence, aggressive outbursts, drugs, crime), and all this is further amplified by the development of digital technologies (which enable anonymity and the spread of misinformation).
In my opinion, Tyler Durden is proof of how people can have a distorted image of themselves in such a world, while perfectly rationalizing it in their own minds. “To be reborn from the ashes like a phoenix” from Tyler Durden’s perspective would mean that from (literal) chaos and destruction, a person can be reborn, failing to see that from feelings of powerlessness and failure, a person should rise and work on themselves to be the best version of themselves and change the world by positive example. But again, Tyler Durden is just a projection of an ordinary man (the Narrator), who long refused to accept that he was unhappy with his way of life, and tried to suppress and “drown” it with material things, culminating in becoming a split personality, and (perhaps) realizing too late that he is mentally ill.
And for all these reasons, I think “Fight Club” should be watched at least once in a lifetime.
And you, dear reader, how did you experience this film?
Did you prefer the acted or written version? 🙂