â€œI see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who have ever lived — an entire generation pumping gas and waiting tables; or they’re slaves with white collars. Advertisements have them chasing cars and clothes, working jobs they hate so they can buy shit they don’t need. We are the middle children of history, with no purpose or place. We have no great war, or great depression. The great war is a spiritual war. The great depression is our lives. We were raised by television to believe that we’d be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars — but we won’t. And we’re learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed-off.”
That is Fight Club, David Fincherâ€™s masterpiece of commercialism, fascism, sociology, and soap. Fight Club is a film that captured society at a significant cultural turning point and literally burnt it to the ground. The film, of course, had no lasting political effects. But it serves as a great example of a society acknowledging all of its shortcomings and questioning all possible solutions.
It also is a great character study. A study of being caught up in the pattern of everyday life that becomes inescapable, but we still dream of escape, even if escape means burning up in a horrible plane accident. Anything is an improvement. Alas, if it is while working, life insurance pays off double. But is there anyone to give that money to? Life is full of emptiness.
I canâ€™t help but emphasize how cynical this film really is. It is often watched purely for entertainment value, and it does indeed serve that purpose resoundingly, but I canâ€™t help but think that much is overlooked when viewed in that perspective. Sure it has great fight scenes, Brad Pitt is pretty badass, and everyone wants to blackmail their boss, but the film is really about all the problems in society. Even at its highest points, the characters are pretty low; even when our nameless protagonist gets the girl, she is a psychologically unstable girl, he has been shot in the face, and the horrible plan of Tyler Durden has succeeded. Where does that really put society? Is this a happy ending? Maybe. Maybe not.
There are few who will disagree when I say that the film is one of those rare occurrences when everything that could go right, did. Chuck Palahniuk produced a wonderful novel, that despite being difficult to adapt, was complimented by a brilliant script. The script ended up in the hands of a great visual director who expertly combines CGI and real footage to eliminate the perfect tone for the film and has a knack for stories about human shortcomings and obsession. The cast could not be better as Brad Pitt offers a great performance, Edward Norton pulls off one of the best showcases of acting from the 90s, and then there is Helena Bonham Carter. Well, not much to complain about there.
Despite the fact that this is a film about society at a specific point, the human themes of the story are timeless. Commercialism, fascism, and human obsession brought to life in great depth elevate this film from a passing craze to lasting epic of the human soul. If this sounds pretentious or overwrought, I assure you it is not. The film captures the life of a nameless man, an average man, his name could be anything, he could be anybody, he is everybody. He just had the courage to run with it. That is a theme that will not grow old, will not become irrelevant, has sustained Fight Club for over a decade and will continue engage audiences.
Perhaps the greatest downfall of the film is that it can qualify as a blockbuster and that reduces the depth that viewers often see the film in. However, it is not a fault of the film to be entertaining, and it is not a fault to refrain from force-feeding the audience its morals.
All in all, The Social Network appears to be continuing David Fincherâ€™s exploration of the soul and human obsession. It too is about a specific point in history, we shall see if it holds the same staying power or timelessness. What is important for now is to recognize that it was a great moment in the history of cinema when Brad Pitt looked Edward Norton in the eyes and asked the infamous favor:
â€œI want you to hit me as hard as you can.â€