“… exists as a monument to everything I hate in the world; but in terms of filmmaking it’s pretty flawless.”
When a movie exists in your memory, especially if that movie is as prominent in pop-culture as Fight Club, it’s easy to forget a lot of the finer details in favour of the larger themes and emotions that you felt when watching it for the first time. I’m not going to sit here and try and unpack or otherwise explain Fight Club and its messages because in my opinion it has been done to death. As a matter of fact while rewatching the movie last night I came to realize that I despise the general consensus that uses Fight Club as a social bible of sorts; but once again that’s not what I’m going to talk about. I’m going to stick to purely objective (well, however objective I can be) aspects of Fight Club and review it in terms of how it exists rather than who it exists for.
Like I said when a movie lives in your memory it is sometimes a little too easy to forget just how fucking weird it is; or at least that’s what I experienced with Fight Club. The beginning of David Fincher’s Fight Club, a movie about a man revolting against society with the help of a deranged stranger, is wildly absurd. Despite the film being released in 1999 I had forgotten just how stylized it was, with unique filming techniques and digital effects used throughout. This strangely worked in the movie’s favour, however.
The beginning of Fight Club acts as almost a test for the audience. It throws everything weird at you at once to kind of get you acclimated to this world that is being built. It’s not our world that we see on screen, but rather a world similar to ours but viewed through a radical lens. Fincher understood that he couldn’t play this straight for fear of losing the audience so he created a hyper-stylized opening to metaphorically dip our toes into the water before the inevitable plunge.
Now the movie doesn’t magically get “normal” after this period, but the absurdity comes more from he characters and the interactions rather than the visuals. David Fincher still makes a very conscious effort to call attention to the almost dream-like quality that is the lifeblood of Fight Club; the quality that was alluded to in the beginning of the film with our main character describing his insomnia. The editing and direction continue to give us, the audience, an intense view of this radical world that has been created. It’s gritty, at times whimsical, and honestly pretty perfect in my opinion.
Of course the film would be nothing without the brilliant performances given by every single person on screen. Of course you have your two leads: Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. Both of these actors essentially play two sides of the same guy; Edward Norton (our protagonist) being the refined socially inept side, and Brad Pitt picking up the slack as the no-holds-barred anarchist who sees the world as his to conquer. This yin and yang relationship allows for brilliant character study on both sides of the coin as the protagonist, and therefore us as the audience, are being pulled deeper into this world of social revolt.
But it isn’t just the guys on the poster that deserve praise, because Fight Club is filled with performances that not only engage the audience but also fill out this bizarre world. For time’s sake the one I will focus on here is Helena Bonham Carter who plays Marla in the film. Marla is a character that is about as flawed, if not more so, than our protagonist. She is constantly transitioning from an obstacle to a goal; from an enemy to an ally. This kind of unusual character fluidity works so well because of her performance. We also have countless supporting actors throughout the film who all do amazing jobs to highlight the sense of mystery as well as act as vessels for a lot of the themes within the movie.
And that’s the last thing I want to talk about: the story. I promised I wouldn’t get into ‘the meaning of Fight Club’ or whatever bullshit countless YouTubers have already tackled, but one thing that sticks out to me is how Fight Club rewards repeat viewings. Usually with movies once you know what is going to happen you have very little need to go back and rewatch them. Only certain movies exist in my mind as those that I would rewatch, and surprisingly Fight Club is one of them. Watching that bizarre opening to the film is both a form of acclimation to the world for the audience, but also a reward for those who have already seen and are familiar with the story. Things move at an almost breakneck pace which directly serves that dual purpose. Keep your eyes peeled and you will be rewarded.
Also, despite everything I hate about Fight Club it’s a really enjoyable movie.
Overall Fight Club exists as a monument to everything I hate in the world; but in terms of filmmaking it’s pretty flawless. The direction and editing lend themselves to the outlandish world that is created, and everything is carried by the phenomenal performances in the film.
I give Fight Club an A