One of the more interesting things about Fight Club, David Fincher’s apocalyptic adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s ground breaking and even more apocalyptic 90s novel is the first rule of the eponymous ‘Fight Club’ within the film, (‘you do not talk about Fight Club’). Reason being, if one were to merely go beneath the surface of Fight Club just a little bit it would involve massive spoilers, which to a degree encourages you not to talk about it. So I’m going to try my very hardest to avoid those.
Y’know, the spoilers, those are the things I’m trying to avoid…
The film is a meditation on masculinity, media, corporate culture, gender relations, fatherhood, and collectivism, and if there is a criticism to be made of Fight Club it could be that that’s a lot of themes to balance which has led to a lot of completely polar opposite readings of the film as screenwriter Jim Uhls and David Fincher struggle to balance the many spinning plates.
Reviewing this film for mental health awareness week is interesting because my personal relationship with Fight Club is much less to do with the mental health of the character but my own mental health at the time I watched it. I had some mental health problems like florid anxiety and depression that were just beginning to burgeon when I watched the film and the film presented me with a character who was also struggling with general dysphoria, with anxiety, malaise, and insomnia. He was a character into which I could project disturbingly well. The movie then presented the character with an anarchic force, it presented him with philosophies that were easy for him to embrace given the position he was in. However, the film also charts his disillusionment with these philosophies. It kind of says to the narrator, and thus to the audience, that the answer isn’t hating society, it isn’t hating women or your parents or capitalism, it’s something more humanistic than that. It’s a film about taking responsibility for your own life, about turning from something passive into something active in your own existence and finding solace from genuine human connection, which the film makes abundantly clear is something that the narrator lacks in his life. This for me is reflected in what David Fincher said about the film that it’s “a coming of age story for men in their 30s”, even though I was about 16 when I saw it. That’s the beauty of the film though, it will give to you whatever you take to it. Because it has all these narrative and thematic threads you can really pick whichever one you want to and run with it.
It’s also a film that’s matured with me. The immediate years after I first saw it were a time of real change and accelerated maturation and change in my own personality and whatever person I am at whatever point I watch Fight Club it still is affirming, ferocious, and challenging.
In terms of whether it’s accurate to the depicted Dissociative Identity Disorder. It is inaccurate in the sense that there is no visible childhood trauma but a poor upbringing at least is hinted at from the narrator’s daddy issues. To quote an actual intelligent person who knows what they’re talking about “A stronger, more confidant personality will oftentimes take over for the benefit of the individual”, which is not only expressed as a theme of the movie in multiple narrative threads through the narrator’s relationship with Marla and Project Mayhem itself, but is expressly told in the film’s text by the actual sufferer itself (do you see me avoiding spoilers here?). It then gets very, very technical and I’m not going to bore you with that.
In the end Fight Club is a film about a guy who joins a collective, the titular ‘Fight Club’ under the guise of it being individually liberating, before realising it is just another form of societal conforming mechanics. It is, like the society it rejects, co-opting your individuality for a general collective identity. One can draw parallels to both fascism and the history of anarchist movements throughout history. For a condensed version I could point you towards the Against Me song I Was a Teenage Anarchist.
It’s also impeccably, kinetically directed. The thing that makes Fincher such a talented director is that he knows just how far to push his vision without breaking consistency of world. The vision of almost dystopic decay he conjures up for the hyper reality of Fight Club is complete, a perfectly distilled environment. It’s almost like Blade Runner but set now. The soundtrack is brooding, and electric, and evocative with some of the best cinematography I have ever seen. It’s hard to fault Fight Club, and in the end it’s worth celebrating because there is no other film like it which is something important. It’s important to encourage trying to do new things with the medium. If you talk to people who love, movies, a lot of them will say that Fight Club is the film that showed them that film cannot just be one thing, that film can not just be escapist entertainment but can be artistic, can talk about ideas, can be intelligent and aggressive and have an internal dialogue without just being an art-house snooze-fest. It’s funny, it’s perfectly paced, it’s got brains and brawn. Go check out Fight Club, just, don’t take it the wrong way.