Director: David Fincher.
Screenplay: Jim Uhls.
Starring: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter, Meat Loaf, Zach Grenier, David Andrews, George Maguire, Richmond Arquette, Eugenie Bondurant, Rachel Singer, Christina Cabot, Sydney Colston, Jared Leto.
“We are consumers. We’re the bi-products of a lifestyle obsession”
Despite showing confidence in his abilities, some unwanted studio interference with his feature debut Alien 3, left director David Fincher carrying the can for failing to fuel the franchise. It was critically panned and a massive failure but Fincher didn’t let that get him down. He got his angry head on and seemingly still had a point to prove. What followed were two of contemporary cinema’s most visceral works; the serial killer thriller Se7en shocked audiences to their core while Fight Club cemented Fincher’s reputation for being one of the most wildly inventive directors of his generation. With these films alone, it’s clear that Fincher does things his way now.
Edward Norton is the narrator, a man who is tired with his mundane existence and dead-end office job. He is tired of going through the motions of his boring life and masking his contempt for others around him. That is, until he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a charismatic, off-the-wall soap salesman with a very twisted philosophy on life. Not before long our narrator has succumbed to Tyler’s wicked and rebellious ways and they both decide to start up a Fight Club – private meeting place where men can be introduced to the joys and catharsis of physical violence. However, Fight Club is so successful that it grows in stature to Project Mayhem – a reactionary group intent on achieving economic equilibrium.
As the now infamous quote instructs us; the first rule about Fight Club is that “you do not talk about Fight Club“. But then, if we didn’t talk about it then we’d be going against the very anarchist themes that the film so closely adheres to. What Fincher crafts here (from the novel by Chuck Palahnuik) is an aggressive polemic and damning indictment on the darkness of our society. He flips a finger to the greed infested corporations and the consumerism that has tainted our souls and permeated our very existence. He challenges the ideas of free thought and the nature of altruism while managing to suggest it’s all just male self-indulgence and homoeroticism. Basically, he’s tapping into the zeitgeist and he doesn’t give a tuppenny fuck who he upsets. It’s a film that cuts across genres and refuses to be pigeonholed. And that’s the marvel of it all.
However, Fincher doesn’t just go on an anti-establishment rant, he delivers it with a philosophical intelligence and infuses the whole hyperkinetic affair with a myriad of stylistic flourishes like Flash cuts, fake cues and subliminal images. It is refreshing to see that someone in Hollywood is willing to take chances and Fincher certainly does that here. Added to which, he’s aided immeasurably by his two leading actors; Norton is as solid as ever in a role that requires him to hold back while Pitt takes most of the plaudits for one of the most flamboyant (and now iconic) characters in his résumé.
Bold and intrepid filmmaking of the highest calibre. It’s quite possibly the most daring film of the 90’s and it’s still as relevant today as it was upon it’s release. In fact, it will remain relevant as long as we live in a capitalist society. Social satires don’t come much more aggressive or provocative than this.
Trivia: Some of fake names used by the narrator in the self-help groups are taken from “Planet of the Apes” (Cornelius), as well as classic roles played by Robert De Niro (such as Rupert from “The King of Comedy” and Travis from “Taxi Driver”).