Thursday, February 17, 2011

With Your Feet In The Air And Your Head On The Ground

We get to another request, this time for my sister. You better enjoy it, Kristy.

Today’s film is a recent cult classic, with a loyal following springing up around it almost immediately. It’s based on a book (and in my opinion, better than its source material) by Mr Chuck Palahniuk. It’s the 1999 near classic, Fight Club.

As I said, it’s based on Chuck Palahniuk’s anti-consumeriest culture screed and is probably one of the best treatises on the subject (at least in my not-all-that-huge knowledge of the subject). For those four of you who have not seen the film, read the book, know about the story or have been living in a cave for the past decade; here is the plot in a nutshell. Our nameless narrator meets the charismatic and slightly nuts Tyler Durden who soon moves in with the narrator, leading him to embrace his inner man and reject his consumerist nature, via the creation of a titular “Fight Club” in which you...well, fight. From there, Durden takes over more and more aspects of the narrator’s life, which causes the narrator to dig into Tyler’s life and find out just who this crazy man is. But at that point, it may be too late as Durden has mutated the (now numerous) fight clubs from what they were, into Project Mayhem, an outfit that could pretty much be termed domestic terrorism units, all stemming from a cult of personality.

Fight Club is essentially a two man show, sure there are a bunch of really good secondary characters – but that is what they are...yes, even Marla. So that means that the actors chosen to portray those two men need to be at the top of their game- because if you have someone who is not capable of carrying something, it’s just going to end up as a giant mess. Thankfully, we have two actors who are widely acknowledged as being among the best of their generation – Edward Norton, who (for all the stories you hear of his behaviour) is a great actor, works perfectly as the narrator moving from a tightly wound and heavily boxed business drone to a completely open and free “wild man” who doesn’t care what he does; and Brad Pitt, as Tyler Durden (which has gone on to become one of his signature roles), a character who embodies everything that Pitt is great at – charismatic, slightly (or incredibly) crazy, shirtless, someone who would be described as “a force of nature”. Both characters are essentially warped mirror images of each other, as are both actors; and the fact that both Norton and Pitt work so well together is just the icing on the cake.

A subtle, or not so subtle, if you are looking for it, trick that director David Fincher used that really works for this film is the change in overall palette the further the narrator moves from his original consumerist identity. What starts off as sterile whites and safe, dull shade moves to darker, grimier greys, blacks, browns and muted colours as he gets more and more “corrupted” by Durden’s influence and regains clearer colours as he regains control of his own life, with the palettes eventually mixing into one. It’s a choice that works really, really well, in my opinion, as the story is basically about the change in the narrator, and as he and his world changes, so too does his view of it.

You can’t talk about this film, at least as an adaptation of the book, and not talk about the change in the end. Speaking as someone who had seen, and become a big fan of, the film before I had a chance to read the original novel, I have to say that Fincher’s change makes the story a hell of a lot better, as I feel that the original ending invalidated everything that I had just read. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who has not read it, but it’s almost 100% different – it’s not a big long change, but there is just one thing that made me say “fuck that shit”. The film ending makes for a much more satisfying conclusion.

All in all, if you see this film and get inspired to make your own Project Mayhem, then you deserve to get punched in the ear.

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