The film indeed. For it is this, and not the book, that has seared itself onto the public consciousness. In a multi-media age even the DVD of Fight Club seems old fashioned now, but the book is a practical irrelevance for too many people, so I’ll park that for now.
Even Chuck Palahnuick himself was surprised that anyone would be interested in the book, but when the film came along as an option, it seemed perfect. Reading the book it feels as though you are reading a well-crafted screenplay, and the movie is super-faithful to it.
When David Fincher took this on the people in the know suddenly paid attention. Then Ed Norton got on board, then Brad Pitt, then Helena Bonham Carter. Wait a minute…
What was delivered was a statement on existential mid-90s angst at lost fathers, emasculation, corporate identity battering, commercialisation and an insipid numbness that could be awoken though nothing short of a punch in the teeth, delivered in the empty car park of a bar in the middle of an amorphous city in the dear old US of A.
But, Fincher and Co did a lot more than this. They delivered a really cool film, and that’s why we love it. There is no man who doesn’t want to be Tyler Durden, doesn’t identify with Norton, doesn’t feel repelled but magnestised by Marla. And, I’m sorry girls, but this is a man’s film. I don’t care what you say.
It’s a man’s film because it’s who it’s about, and for, from it’s very inception. Tough. But it’s clear that this isn’t a promotional feature for men, it’s a wake up call. Well, the book was, this is about capitalising on that of course, but it’s still top drawer.
Norton’s office drone, with astonishing detail and affecting tasks at his fingertips as an insurance investigator, is the everyman we see in the mirror everyday. He is bored, psychotic, numbed and lost. So, (spoiler here! look away) he creates the alter ego of Tyler Durden to wake him up. Tyler is everything he wants to be, and so do we. So they get that lucky bastard Pitt in.
Brad Pitt is a terrible lead actor, but a great co-lead. He bounces off of people excellently, and Norton’s acting chops are excellent foil for his inspired idiocy. He is Tyler, and the swagger, grin, slouch and stare are all directed to Norton, if not then he’s breaking the fourth wall, an often tiring device that is perfect in a film that is actually just about talking to the viewer all along.
The underlying theme is of men remembering that they are men and are not tied into the commercial and social ties that they’ve grown up in and are unwittingly part of. They can break out and Fight Club is the first step. Following this it’s about rebellion, destruction, anarchy and a few other hopeless causes, but mainly it’s about Norton’s battle with himself. And, therefore with Tyler.
What starts as a buddy movie, turns dark and violent (beyond the punching) as Norton fights are directed inward, so stop himself from turning into something he’s not sure he goes along with. Actually he does. It’s also kind of a love story, and that’s really rather sweet in the final analysis, even though after the first few viewings I found myself wishing Bonham-Carter out of the film. The character really, but I think HB-C is the same in every film.
Is the world set on a course for killing our individuality, globalisation, corporate rape of the human soul? Do we, as men, have any power left, and recourse to break out? Maybe, but if we don’t we can always just watch a good film about it.