I agree with your thoughts on the ending, but I’d go further. I think the Project Mayhem stuff in general is messy and unsatisfying. The movie starts extremely strong, but it completely loses me around the halfway point.

We spend way too long listening to nihilistic ramblings that sound cool but make no sense at all (You are not your job, but also I’m going to push this clerk to get his dream job). The movie can’t decide if the mayhem is an important revolution or a silly joke, so we get constant and bizarre shifts in tone.

The evolution from “punch each other to blow off steam” to “nationwide terrorist cell” feels way too quick and wildly underdeveloped, and the parts that are shown are cartoonish. They stop all investigations into their terrorism network by threatening one guy? Norton funds this by being weird in the office and hoping nobody told HR that he’s insane?

Is Tyler recruiting other friendless nihilists, or is he somehow radicalizing normies? Robert Paulson clearly isn’t Project Mayhem material; he immediately fails the entry test. But once he joins, he becomes dedicated enough to risk his life destroying a random coffee shop? And everyone thinks this is a worthwhile, meaningful sacrifice, and they should risk their lives for this nonsense too?

It all just feels very undercooked to me. This movie is infamous for the fact that half the people who watch it completely misinterpret its themes, and I think some of that has to be the movie’s fault. I feel like the whole second half needed another few drafts.

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I would agree with this broadly. What carries the second half of the movie for me is not the Project Mayhem stuff, it's the Marla stuff, and the Project Mayhem part always feels like it doesn't quite work. It might be that if you went back and rethought how that part might work, a more satisfying ending would materialize out of the revisions. As it is, it doesn't really bother me until the ending, but I do think it may not be possible to really fix the ending without reworking Project Mayhem in general.

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Nov 4, 2022Liked by Anna Rettberg

I hadn't rewatched Fight Club since its release, it's super fun to revisit. It's interesting that we watched Lawrence of Arabia earlier, I think it connects well thematically. To me, Fight Club is a close-up view of some themes in Lawrence, especially sado-masochism and the cult of personality.

Regarding the ending, it's kind of ambiguous what they were going for so there's not one definitive reading, but the way I see it is that there's a mismatch between the tone of the whole movie (violent, bleak and somewhat realistic) and the content, so the form points toward a dark satire but to me the story is much more related to slapstick, farce, absurdism and romantic comedy. So when he shoots himself at the end, I don't see it as any kind of resolution with thematic weight (it's not really indicated that Tyler won't come back). It's the same with the explosion, it is just the same kind of empty gestures we saw all along, just bigger. To me the sense of resolution comes with the character's declaration of love for Marla and implies that it could change his situation. I did a quick search on the internet to see if anybody else wrote on that and I found a blog post that compared Fight Club with "Bringing Up Baby", I have no idea if it's a good comparison but it might be worth a look.

As for Brad Pitt's performance, if you read the movie more as absurdist and self-contradictory, I think it makes sense that he is not a good orator. He just mumbles barely sensical pseudo-philosophy and that's enough to create a cult, making his followers the more ridiculous for it. He also embodies exactly what he criticizes (a good example is when he talks about Gucci advertising). The whole movie is full of self-contradictions like that, another example is the idea of anarchist terrorists organized hierarchically like the army, etc.

Here's the article on romantic comedies and Fight Club: https://www.rogerebert.com/scanners/fight-club-at-ten-a-love-story

There's a ton of stuff to talk about with this movie... They probably drew inspiration from Robert Musil's book "The Man without Qualities", and from poet-boxer Arthur Cravan as well (here's one of his poems: http://moicani.over-blog.com/2015/02/mina-loy-s-colossus-and-the-myth-of-arthur-cravan.html

and his fashion sense, similar to Brad Pitt toward the ending: https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/arthur-cravan-logo-e1515012465317.jpg)

Anyway, if I have time this weekend, I'll add a few things on Fincher's direction, which as you said is very impressive.

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Nov 5, 2022·edited Nov 6, 2022

I looked for more articles on the romantic comedy angle yesterday and I found an analysis that describes the proximity of Fight Club with the genre. The best part of the article is where the author describes how Fight Club mixes two subgenres of romantic comedy, what he calls the "gentile" romantic comedy (with external obstacles to overcome) and the "Jewish" romantic comedy (where the obstacle is internal, like most of Woody Allen's comedies).


What cued me in on the romantic comedy angle is the last time I watched Seven I realized it was a response to Young British Artists movement (Damien Hirst, etc.) It basically is a comedy on painting smuggled in a serial killer movie, it's very clever. He does the same thing with Fight Club, the tone does not correspond the genre he is actually working with.

For the lack of iconic shots you mentioned, I never thought about that but I think what FlyingWaffle said about Brad Pitt picture is accurate. To generalize, I think Fincher is more about portraiture than landscape. Paintings of Lucian Freud come to mind for a comparison to his style.

On the editing side, I think your comparison with Spielberg is very good. They both "lock" the viewer in the center of the screen and do smooth transitions, it's more seamless than what Kubrick does per example. If anybody's interested to study more of that, Steven Soderbergh put a black and white version of Indiana Jones without the audio track on his website to teach this kind of editing.


Fincher is a bit different, he locks even more with the characters, but it's the same idea.

Every Frame A Painting did a video on Fincher, it's good too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPAloq5MCUA

On the audio side, Fincher does the same kind of soundscaping that Walter Murch talked about in the interview I posted last week. Here's a good example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ho8M51TxE1Q

I think the bleep sounds are really funny, it's super cartoonish. Like you mentioned, there's also the relationship between the audio narrator and the visual narrator that is not completely matching in the first part of the movie (you see Tyler Durden but he is not mentioned.) I've been reading Peter Verstraten book "Film Narratology" lately and he talks about that as a gap between the audio narrator and the visual narrator (which fits thematically with the rest of the movie.)

There's too much to do a complete breakdown of scenes but I think it gives a good starting point if anyone is interested into deeper stylistic analysis.

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