FIGHT CLUB Copy of a copy (David Fincher)
Fight Club is a 1999 American film directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, and Helena Bonham Carter. It is based on the 1996 novel of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk. Norton plays the unnamed narrator, who is discontented with his white-collar job. He forms a “fight club” with soap salesman Tyler Durden (Pitt), and becomes embroiled in a relationship with a destitute woman, Marla Singer (Bonham Carter). Palahniuk’s novel was optioned by Fox 2000 Pictures producer Laura Ziskin, who hired Jim Uhls to write the film adaptation. Fincher was selected because of his enthusiasm for the story. He developed the script with Uhls and sought screenwriting advice from the cast and others in the film industry. It was filmed in and around Los Angeles from July to December 1998. He and the cast compared the film to Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and The Graduate (1967), with a theme of conflict between Generation X and the value system of advertising. Studio executives did not like the film, and they restructured Fincher’s intended marketing campaign to try to reduce anticipated losses. Fight Club failed to meet the studio’s expectations at the box office, and received polarized reactions from critics. It was ranked as one of the most controversial and talked-about films of 1990s. The film later found commercial success with its home video release, establishing Fight Club as a cult classic and causing media to revisit the film. In 2009, on the tenth anniversary of the film’s release, The New York Times dubbed it the “defining cult movie of our time.” Fincher said Fight Club was a coming of age film, like the 1967 film The Graduate but for people in their 30s. Fincher described the narrator as an “everyman”; the character is identified in the script as “Jack”, but left unnamed in the film. Fincher outlined the Narrator’s background: “He’s tried to do everything he was taught to do, tried to fit into the world by becoming the thing he isn’t.” He cannot find happiness, so he travels on a path to enlightenment in which he must “kill” his parents, god, and teacher. By the start of the film, he has “killed off” his parents. With Tyler Durden, he kills his god by doing things they are not supposed to do. To complete the process of maturing, the Narrator has to kill his teacher, Tyler Durden. The character is a 1990s inverse of the Graduate archetype: “a guy who does not have a world of possibilities in front of him, he has no possibilities, he literally cannot imagine a way to change his life.” He is confused and angry, so he responds to his environment by creating Tyler Durden, a Nietzschean Übermensch, in his mind. While Tyler is who the Narrator wants to be, he is not empathetic and does not help the Narrator face decisions in his life “that are complicated and have moral and ethical implications”. Fincher explained: “[Tyler] can deal with the concepts of our lives in an idealistic fashion, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the compromises of real life as modern man knows it. Which is: you’re not really necessary to a lot of what’s going on. It’s built, it just needs to run now.” While studio executives worried that Fight Club was going to be “sinister and seditious”, Fincher sought to make it “funny and seditious” by including humor to temper the sinister element. Screenwriter Jim Uhls described the film as a romantic comedy, explaining: “It has to do with the characters’ attitudes toward a healthy relationship, which is a lot of behavior which seems unhealthy and harsh to each other, but in fact does work for them—because both characters are out on the edge psychologically.” The Narrator seeks intimacy, but avoids it with Marla Singer, seeing too much of himself in her. While Marla is a seductive and negativist prospect for the Narrator, he embraces the novelty and excitement that comes with befriending Tyler. The Narrator is comfortable being personally connected to Tyler, but becomes jealous when Tyler becomes sexually involved with Marla. When the Narrator argues with Tyler about their friendship, Tyler tells him that being friends is secondary to pursuing the philosophy they have been exploring. When Tyler implies that Marla is a risk they should remove, the Narrator realizes he should have focused on her and begins to diverge from Tyler’s path. When Fight Club premiered at the 56th Venice International Film Festival, the film was fiercely debated by critics. A newspaper reported, “Many loved and hated it in equal measures.” Some critics expressed concern that the film would incite copycat behavior, such as that seen after A Clockwork Orange debuted in Britain nearly three decades previously. Upon the film’s theatrical release, The Times reported the reaction: “It touched a nerve in the male psyche that was debated in newspapers across the world.”
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