I watched this film again recently, having not seen it for quite a number of years. It’s funny how things change with time. In this case, I feel as if society has moved on from Fight Club. For those of you who haven’t seen it, to spoil it as little as possible, it tells the story of two men:
The first one we meet is the unnamed Narrator (Edward Norton), who is suffering from insomnia at the begining of the story. However, we soon realise that what is keeping this guy awake is just a general dissatisfaction with the world. His life revolves around working to earn money to get lots of stuff to furnish his apartment.
In fact, his life becomes so devoid of meaning that he ends up joining cancer counselling groups, posing as a terminal cancer patient. It is here, where people all want to focus on him and listen to every word he has to say, that he feels great.
However, the major turn in his life comes when he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) on a plane trip. Tyler represents everything that the Narrator is not: he doesn’t care about the material things in society, he seems to have little or no respect for social conventions – in short, he’s the most liberated person that the Narrator has ever met.
So the two of them start hanging around together and after the Narrator’s house is accidentally blown up by a gas explosion, the two move into a creaking old house in an industrial zone. It is shortly after this that they come up with the concept of Fight Club: a group of guys who get together and fight with one another. It is in this rather pointless activity that they find some meaning in their lives. Of course, as the story goes on, the activities of Tyler and Fight Club start to get more dark and dangerous . . . and to say any more would spoil the ride.
When it came out, this was a huge hit with young guys (myself included), probably because it offered the novel idea of a bunch of guys getting together to fight with one another. (I can’t see this idea being attractive to many women, but it’s an ideal pitch to a room full of guys.) The reality of the movie, of course, is that it was actually a very clever (and very scathing) attack on the rampant materialism of the day, and the emptiness of the life that was on offer to the average male.
For those of us who like our films a bit deeper, it said something to us. For those of us who weren’t that subtle and liked our films dumb and with action, there were still the fight scenes to watch. So it became something of a cult classic.
Looking at it now with the distance of nearly 10 years, I don’t think we’re quite as cynical now as we were back then. The film offers an almost unrelentingly gloomy picture of the world, and only briefly is the solution to the problem hinted at (the final few moments suggest that forming human relationships are probably the key to the problem of a meaningless world). In fact, I’m not sure the film itself is entirely convinced by this solution.
Nowadays, I’m finding films tend to be a bit more optimistic about the human race, and hold out hopes that if we just all be nice to one another, that eventually we’ll eliminate most problems.
Of course, you know where I’m going to be coming from. I believe that the solution to life’s meaning is going to be found in a relationship with the God who made us for a purpose, and gives our life meaning.
Fight Club quite rightly (whether it intended to or not) recognises the meaninglessness of a world where acquiring stuff has become the point of life. The agony of work with no purpose. It also plays around with the idea of destruction and violence as a temporary solution, before ultimately rejecting it. But I don’t think it puts anything in its place.
All in all, it feels like a good set of questions, without really having an answer.
4 out of 5.