Saturday, 21 April 2012

Fight Club (1999)

This film is one of those that the internet seems to be in love with, one that most of the critic world actually agrees with for once (unlike V for Vendetta). On first watch, it does seem worthy of such praise, on the whole at least. Above all, I enjoyed it.

David Fincher's fast becoming one of my favourite directors. I'm only really just getting into films now, so I don't know much about the whole industry, but Fincher is someone who stands out as someone I like. I've also got Seven, his film before Fight Club, to watch on that list. The narration and the visual segments breaking the fourth wall, e.g. the scene establishing Tyler's backstory, work really well and aren't jarringly different to the overall feel, and Tyler's co-operation as well as the narrator talking in those scenes just adds to it. The constant "little things" throughout add up to make me want to call the film stylised, but it really isn't all that much. The little "subliminal" flashes of pornography and pictures of Tyler, the fact that the house is so dilapidated, everyone is so beat up. It all adds up to give the film that strange half-asleep feeling where things look real, but bubbling just below the surface is the twilight world of the not-quite-awake.

Obviously I knew the twist going in, the film's been out for more than two thirds of my life, it'd be hard to make it this far without knowing. That said, I don't think it took it that much out of the experience. Sure a bit of the confusion was lost once the clues start appearing about mid-way through, like the first interaction "Jack" has with Marla in the house but it was still enjoyable to see the character's try to work out what was going on. If anything, foreknowledge makes Tyler even more charismatic. You lose the question of "how could anybody actually be like that?" because he's just the delusion of a sleep deprived man going through a complete breakdown. The twist itself is well executed, in my opinion. Obviously it isn't exactly realistic, and makes great use of movie-logic, but as part of the narrative it works very well, it's foreshadowed especially well; stuff like the reason they cut off the balls as punishment in Project Mayhem stemming from the testicular cancer support group and Tyler's abusive relationship with Jack in that he doesn't let him talk about him, which is how a lot of mentally ill people treat themselves.

Of course, part of that comes from the performance too. The acting across the board is pretty much spot on. Edward Norton gives a performance that reminds me a lot of Neo from The Matrix, at least he does in the first act of the film. He gives a great portrayal of a man on a personal journey, from the man who literally has no idea how to change his life in the bgeinning, through a man with a real purpose, finally arriving at someone who is prepared to do what he has to to do what is right in the end. And Norton delivers at all points. Helena Bonham-Carter as Marla, despite the fact in all other circumstances the character would be a nutjob, actually grounds the film more in the real world during the final act. She is someone who is f*cked up, but in a not-creating-an-alter-ego-to-try-and-otherthrow-the-financial-system kind of way, which is a bit refreshing when you see all the other characters. She's just trying to deal with having a sh*tty life and caring about someone who's an asshole. But of course, the real star of the show is Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden. Pitt is just able to pull off that self-assuredness with such a slick approach that the result is someone who is hyperconfident without being just straight up arrogant. The man just oozes cool and charisma, which is Tyler to a tee because he was created to be everything "Jack" wanted to be. Even dressed in track pants, a hawaiian shirt and those ridiculous sunglasses he's still someone who you'd follow in a crisis.

As for the whole underlying message that people seem obsessed with in regard to the film, I think it's ridiculously simple. It's not advocating anarchy, or even satirising it in an attempt to discredit it. What I took from it, if anything, is that we should all be willing to step up our game a bit and have the balls to better our lives, but not to overreach yourself for fear of going to far. If there's one quote from the library of good lines that makes up the script that should actually be taken seriously it's that we should all aim to have "the ability to let that which does not matter truly slide". To me, that's as deep as it gets.

All in all, a deeply enjoyable film that I'm really glad I watched. One that actually lived up to the expectations I had going in, too. I can see why it's so highly lauded by so many people.

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