The supremacist yet spectacular film ‘Fight Club’ (1999) by David Fincher starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton consists of various different themes such as mental illness, different realities, identity, masculinity, power, consumerism, loneliness among others. The protagonist, Jack or Tyler but most importantly the narrator is portrayed as a victim of insomnia and depression. He is distressed from his robotic, zombie-like, insomnia afflicted life; he hates his dead-end job and is lonely. He turns to consumerism as an escape, specifically IKEA furniture which in a way represents him. He even attempts to fill the void by going to different support groups. His narration three minutes into the movie portray he has a certain lack of empathy and is the owner of sociopathic qualities. He narrates in a highly cold manner, uses their sorrow and pain to make himself feel better. Nothing seems enough. He attempts to project the consequences and guilt of his actions on Marla whom he initially calls ‘the tourist’, but he is not any different than her in reality. Nothing seems to be enough, he ends up developing an alter ego, Tyler Durden (the rebel, the ideal man, a man’s man), someone he aspires to be. Tyler is a confident, care-free, charismatic man with the capability to brainwash individuals. He is constantly seen battling with his alter ego. He is breaking the rules but does not want to take the social responsibility for his actions. The director has used various different elements to fit these ideologies and themes in the film. The body language and costume, cinematography and the lighting play a huge part in demonstrating the message. From the moment this film begins, it immediately grabs the attention of the audience, the opening scene consists of a gun in the narrators mouth followed by an unexpected lighter scene where ‘Jack’ is being squeezed by an oversized man.
The lighting in the film is mostly gloomy and dark. Most of the filming shows night time, because it implies criminal activities. The fight club does not only become an overcrowded testosterone group but a terrorist group, a religion to many of its member. The colours are rough in most of the film apart from being dark. The brighter scenes are at the office of the narrator to make it seem boring and dry just as the narrator is initially portrayed. The sudden switch from light to dark also subconsciously creates agitation among the audience; therefore they would simply detest the lighter after a dark scene. The most prominent light change is during the fight club and when Tyler and the narrator are together. The colours also change when the schizophrenic narrator is alone and when he is with Tyler. More clarity can be witnessed through lightning when the narrator is alone. The fight club has a rugged mid yellow tone to it, which means the contrast and saturation is high. This might have been done to showcase activity and most importantly violence. The usage of blue, black and green is used excessively mainly because these colours showcase depression, despair and sadness. The changes in the main character can be seen via light changes. Each time the character is witnessed doing the everyday chores, such as going to the office, the police station and at the doctors, the lighting is bright enabling more clarity in the scene. The colours have played a major role in conveying the message of the film and the changes the character is experiencing. Ironically, the film is defying consumerism but if one notices there is product placement of starbucks coffee in every scene except the scene where a coffee bar is destroyed thanks to a project mayhem assignment. Product placement of Krispy creme can also be witnessed if one looks closely enough.
When it comes to costumes, make-up and characterisation, there are many key things that can be looked at. Tyler, the narrator’s alter ego, from the start (even when he was not introduced and was shown numerous times) wore funky clothes, this showed he was not only confident, he didn’t care about designer clothes and brands. His attire was all over the place, it looked like he had acquired the clothing from a thrift store, a lot like the only female representative, Marla. He was also first introduced with sunglasses on a plane; this helped keep a mystery around him while his red leather jacket indicated sexualisation and confidence. Tyler’s attire and make up also showed rebellion and casual, laidback attitude. His spiky hair shows aggression. Oddly enough smoking is considered ‘cool’ and ‘masculine’; hence his smoking gave the whole character the solid ideal man persona. Initially Marla was only witnessed wearing black; smoking with odd spiky hair; her makeup was mushy portraying that she hasn’t showered for days. This attire showed depression, irresponsibility, causality and in some sense a cry for help. This characterisation is given more clarity by her actions later in the film. When it comes to the narrator, his look and has changed from the beginning to the middle and the end. He is seen wearing boring, dull, dry clothes which are mostly designer wear; he narrates this when he loses his suitcase at the airport. He is seen wearing a tie in the beginning which he eventually gets rid of as he join fight club and goes through drastic mental and physical changes. ‘Jacks’ hairstyle is also very common, something a middle aged man would have, however his attire portrays how materialistic he is and brands matter to him. His hair and attire illustrate how basic and average he is, and most of the audience can somewhat relate to him in this modern era. Jacks appearance changes gradually his boss even complains about it, he stops tucking his shirt in, stop wearing a tie, the clothes are no longer clean but with blood stains and his face always bruised up from fights. Later when Tyler vanishes, he is wearing darker clothes and is shown with prominent bags under his eyes. The narrators and Tyler’s costumes give the audience a clear picture about who they are as people, ironically the opposites. These costumes giveaway the social class these characters belong to, what they might be like and their personalities.
In terms of body language, facial expression and gestures there is a lot the main character initially gives away. The glimpses of Tyler being shown on screen before his introduction, this is where the main character in a way give a warning to the audience to watch out by giving a very confused facial expression. In the scene where is speaking to the doctor, when the doctor says ‘that’s pain’ the narrator can be witnessed looking next to the doctor not directly at him, the same confused expression was seen during a support group meeting. Facial expressions of the narrator at the doctor also show that he wants to seem desperate so that he can be given any medication to sleep. Throughout the film the narrators’ body language and expression show him as a confused thirty old ‘boy’ as he calls himself in the movie. The way he walks does not show off confidence, his slouchy walk shows sadness and dissatisfaction. Tyler walk and body language illustrate confidence, poise and fulfilment. Even as he gets off his seat on the plain his walk and the manner he gets out and says he doesn’t know whether to put his crotch or behind show his sense of charisma. The scene between the narrator and his boss where he leaves his job with pay checks and more is of high significance. The facial expressions of the boss (Richard) are of shock, trauma and confusion. He stares at Jack who is beating himself up. The narrator is speaking in third person context as usual, that’s how his name was revealed when he reading magazines earlier. He says, ‘I’m jack smirking revenge’. This is also an illustration of how jack might have managed to pull off those bruises and his first fight with Tyler. How he might have beaten himself up instead of Tyler doing it to him. This whole scene shows that jack is exceptional at lying and could be a pathological liar. He says the award goes to and doesn’t end the sentence when he on the phone with police officer regarding the explosions. At the end of the movie when Jack finds out about Tyler’s truth and Marla being in danger his entire body language shifts from lazy to panic and flight mode. He is seen as running from place to another in a rush and panic. His expressions have fear, concern and panic. Tyler’s expressions had been neutral throughout the film again showcasing he casual attitude towards life, the same cannot be said about his laugh. His laugh is demonic and has a hint of insane person. He has laughed four times in the film and in all four; one feels uncomfortable just at the sound of it. The most expressive Tyler was seen getting was when Jack shot at him. Marla’s expression giveaway what she feels for Jack and how she is confused but at the same time she doesn’t want to care excessively. (Fun fact to with body language is that when the first fight outside the bard between Jack and Tyler took place, the director asked Edward to throw a real punch at Brad Pitt, who was oblivious that this would happen, therefore his reaction to getting hit was as real as it could be).
David Fincher has managed to convey numerous themes which have scarred the modern world in just one film through rugged and dirty set designs promoting masculinity to gloomy and grainy lighting conveying sadness. The sad humour was made enjoyable via different techniques. Every scene in the film has reflected differently. The lack of female representation is truly a shame. Apart from this every detail has been carefully evaluated in the film throughout. Fight Club is not simply about violence but escapism from one reality to another. It is evident why Brad Pitt was chosen for the Ideal Man’s role, because at that time that is what he was. Narration has also played an important role throughout, without it the film would have been slow and too gloomy to watch.