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Fight Club

June 27, 2012

Fight Club (1999)
Director: David Fincher
Actors: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter

Synopsis: ‘Jack’ (Edward Norton) – a repressed urban insomniac – has his life turned upside down by the anarchic inspiration of Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt).

Review: Fight Club is forever destined to be one of the most misunderstood movies in cinematic history. Almost always taken too literally on the basis of its subject matter, it has been co-opted by the fanboys as a form of ‘cool’, anarchic, masculine wish-fulfilment, while crusty conservatives and knee-jerk feminists critique it for its seeming advocacy of violence and subversion, with a hint of fascism. What all those readings fail to see is that Fight Club’s ‘militarised masculinity’ thesis is one big red herring, and that the film’s tongue is far too firmly in its cheek at all points of its discourse to ever take its characters’ actions too much at face value. If anything, Fight Club is a satire of the redundancy of masculinity, and gleefully mocks the increasingly desperate ways that Jack/Tyler Durden attempt to physically manifest some meaning in their life. Everyone knows how (spoiler alert) Tyler Durden is set up as an imaginary alter-ego of Jack, created as a means for him to carry out his rebellion. However, I also see Helena Bonham Carter’s character, Marla Singer, as another strand of Jack’s psyche. If you look at the way her parts in the movie are filmed, they’re equally as ‘unreal’ and divorced from the outside world as Tyler’s. Marla represents the blasé, feminist end of the spectrum, and it’s only at the climax when Jack has exhausted his chaotic journey as Tyler, that he accepts a future with Marla and magnificently passes off his indiscretions with the simple excuse, “you met me at a very strange time in my life”.

The scenes of skyscrapers being felled at the end of Fight Club certainly brought to mind the influence of Kurt Vonnegut – which plays into the reading of the film as something that shouldn’t be taken at face value through its cacophony of postmodern devices. Most darkly of all though, Jack so radically blowing up the institutions of finance cannot help but act as premonition of 9/11 (which was to occur two years after the release of Fight Club) – even Tyler hauntingly says at the beginning of the film, “this is it: Ground Zero”, when pointing a gun at Jack. Fight Club certainly intuits that the next great threat lay not in national/military paradigms, but in disaffected ideological groups with their guerilla, underground sects and targeting of symbolic hegemonic landmarks. (June 2012)

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