Being asked to name your favourite film of all time is never easy. I love films and my passion for the art of cinema was one of the driving forces behind the choices I made in my academic and professional life. However, asking me to choose just one example of the medium is practically impossible. Whenever this discussion does arise, though, there are several hardy perennials that come into my top 10. One of them is David Fincher’s, 1999 film, Fight Club.
Based on Chuck Palahniuk’s fantastic novel, the film focuses on the relationship between an un-named, insomniac, insurance office worker and his relationship with Tyler Durden, a soap salesman who, in the film, he meets on a long distance flight. The story follows the pair as they develop a ‘fight club’, in which men meet to fight, bareknuckle, for the thrill of the bout and the catharsis of the subsequent pain. We see our lead character start to attend support sessions for those with terminal diseases, despite his relative good health, as he finds this experience is the only cure for his insomnia. Here he meets Marla Singer, a fellow 'grief tourist' who, later, establishes a rather confused relationship with Tyler. The fight clubs, eventually, develop into an ethos, and a form of cult, with the main protagonist abandoning his former ‘white-collar’ life to help build, with Durden, an anarchist faction, ‘Project Mayhem’. As the story unfolds we see the real extent of the following this has gained and the true nature of its eventual aims. I won’t spoil the twist at the heart of the story, but we end on a scene of destruction as several major buildings explode, in an attempt by Project Mayhem to wipe out the credit card debt records of some major corporations.
One of my favourite scenes is when we meet Tyler Durden
for the first time. "How is that working out for you... being clever?"
|Helena Bonham-Carter as Marla Singer|
"If I did have a tumour, I would name it Marla"
Fincher’s direction is superb, evoking a strange semi-conscious state through layered imagery, jump-cuts and visual effects, clearly inspired by his time working in music video. The complex and non-linear narrative weaves swiftly between the hyper-real and the hallucinatory, with surreal scenes such as the ‘power animal’ penguin giving us a glimpse into the mind of a character who barely knows his own thoughts.
|'Slide' - one of the film's most|
famously surreal segments.
|Seeing our protagonist dismiss the social etiquette of|
the world he inhabits is somewhat cathartic for
anyone who has ever worked in an office.
|Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden - the charismatic,|
dangerous agitator we are introduced to who is, in his
own words, "free in all the ways you are not".
There are a lot of reasons I love this film. I love the message and the underlying questions it raises about the way we live our lives. I love the hectic edits and optical tricks thrown at us via the visually-rich direction. There are great performances, not just from Norton, Pitt and Bonham-Carter, but convincing, complex characterisations from people as surprising as Meatloaf, giving a stellar turn as Bob, one of the Mayhem recruits. The soundtrack is great, featuring the dirty, overdriven sounds of Tom Waits, The Dust Brothers and The Pixies. It is funny, moving, thrilling and thought-provoking, and not many films can boast that. It is an experience. One that, like it or not, you will fail to forget.
"You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your fucking khakis. You are the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world."