There are several reasons to think of why Fight Club has persevered. David Fincher’s directorial was released in 1999 but still finds itself amid relevant pop culture. Is it the searing dialogue, anarchist tone, Brad Pitt’s riveting performance, or Ed Norton’s haunting face and wry narration?
And so, to add to the horde of reasons that have been stated, let there be one more. Perhaps what Fight Club did was portray masculinity in compelling poetry.
Freedom of Violence
The film is ‘Fight Club.’ And as the name literally implies, there is a club where men get together to fight each other.
But under that dry and blanket statement is a wholly original depiction of that violent instinct of masculinity. There are bloody and bruised shirtless men cheering each other on as they pummel each other. But it is not meaningless brutality. Every punch is laced with freedom. The club provides the men with a space to feed and expunge that instinct of violence that lives within them.
‘How much could you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?‘ asks Tyler Durden.
It is a terrific thought, blatant and yet delivered as though it is a random musing. It is, in fact, the kind of question that lies coiled up and deep within, showing up in those moments between dreams and the real world.
It is the question the men attempt to answer every Fight Night.
Toxic or Layered?
‘Toxic’ is a prefix often attached now to masculinity. But in Fight Club, David Fincher changes that prefix to ‘Poetic.’ Not the poetry of flowers and still water. Instead, the poetry of bloody knuckles and destroyed pretty faces.
If poetry leaves feelings of peace in its wake, Fight Club’s iteration of it is rebellion. Tyler Durden rips societal norms away and asks men and himself to look at what’s left. To ask of themselves what they will do now when they cannot hide behind shackles.
And because Tyler Durden cannot ask it of himself without splitting it into two, we have the Narrator who gives up his name and the man without shackles who gets to keep the name. By choosing Brad Pitt, a man long hailed as a perfect physical specimen of masculinity, David Fincher achieves what the alter ego must. A visual representation of everything the Narrator wants to be but isn’t.
The Dialogue of the Revolution
The screenplay by Jim Uhls is punctuated with some of cinema’s most memorable dialogue. It paints a visceral picture of these men and the rebellion they are building towards. With metaphors, a rhythmic pace, and a steady vein of narration, the dialogue creates Fight Club’s identity.
Whether it be Helena Bonham Carter’s icy yet dreamy tones or the echoing chorus of the men of Fight Club, which grows to Project Mayhem, the dialogue is crackling and original for everyone. And 22 years on, the words do not feel out of place or unrelatable. It is the power of excellent writing- longevity across generations. And Jim Uhls can hang his cap alongside the authors of the classics.
Poetry does not discriminate, nor does it die. With Fight Club, we have the perfect poem of that undeniable entity- masculinity.
Fight Club is a 1999 Psychological Drama film directed by David Fincher.