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Wednesday, 11 January 2012

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Fritz

Odd that you use the word "castrate" as that's such an important plot point.

Also, I'm wondering if you're forgetting that Palahniuk is at pains to point out the reversal of the Narrator and Marla's roles, that it's Marla who gives the Narrator the strength and the reason to oppose Durden:

"So Tyler can't take complete control, I need Marla to keep me awake. All the time.

Full Circle.

The night Tyler save her life, Marla asked him to keep her awake all night."

I think that Palahniuk is well aware that what Durden wants is fascism, that is, a nihilistic struggle for its own sake. Why else would "Mr. Durden" end up in a mental institution, afraid that he's not strong enough to go back to the world?

David Moles

Having read the book but never seen the film, I find the film suddenly looks a lot more interesting than it did. (Probably not interesting enough to see, but still.)

When you say "those who fail to pay attention end up reading Palahniuk's book through Fincher's film", do you mean they end up reading the book as if Fincher's deconstructed version was always already* there in the text? Or are you just saying (again**) what you say later, that, whether they've read the book or not, what uncritical viewers see in the film is Palahniuk's original misogynistic resistance scenario?

--

* I'm not actually entirely clear what the continental philosophers mean by "always already", but I like the sound of it.

** Okay, not really "saying again". Maybe I mean "prefiguring"? I don't know, it's been a long day.

SEK

Fritz:

Odd that you use the word "castrate" as that's such an important plot point.

I teach rhetoric, so do you really think that was unintentional?

I think that Palahniuk is well aware that what Durden wants is fascism, that is, a nihilistic struggle for its own sake.

And as it becomes clear reading his later novels, this is a desire Palahniuk sympathizes strongly with.

David:

I find the film suddenly looks a lot more interesting than it did. (Probably not interesting enough to see, but still.)

It's interesting enough to see, I assure you. It's Fincher's first foray into thinking about large social networks: how they're created and maintained, and more importantly, how do you film their creation and maintenance without boring audiences to tears.

whether they've read the book or not, what uncritical viewers see in the film is Palahniuk's original misogynistic resistance scenario

This is what I'm saying. Strip the film of Fincher's directorial artifice and you're left with propaganda for the empty ideology peddled by the novel. Like Kick-Ass, the film robs the book of its sillier elements, elevating it into a kind of work that, often as not, criticizes what the source material lionized.

Davis

Fight Club was one of those rare examples where I felt the film far surpassed the novel. I happened to see it before I read it, but when I read the novel I kept thinking to myself "Tyler's gang seems like a fraternity built out of the biggest assholes he could find — and Tyler himself is the worst of the lot. Why would anyone want to be a part of this?"

In contrast, I thought the film did an excellent job of luring the viewer into sympathizing with Tyler for some time. The early-to-mid stages of the film provide cliched messages that most people can latch on to: Modern consumer culture is vapid! Don't be so attached to your stuff! Even the transition into more destructive endeavors was portrayed in such a humorous way — for example, the simultaneous destruction of the "corporate art" piece and the Starbucks stand-in — that it was still possible for the non-sociopathic viewer to support the spirit (if not the reality) of what Tyler's minions were doing. From a story-focused perspective, I think it's the sudden dive from levity into insanity and brutality that effectively jars the viewer into understanding that these men are nothing more than overgrown children: destructive and selfish. It's fantastic to see this post lay out how the visuals support this reading. And it's appalling to think that there are a sizable number of people out there who don't recognize the irony of the film.

Ahistoricality

the singular novel Chuck Palahniuk's been writing for the better part of the past two decades

Hemingway said something to the effect that great writers write the same book over and over again. What he neglected to say is that good, mediocre and awful writers often do the same thing.

The writer that is the best contemporary example of that for me is Haruki Murakami: while there's unquestionably evolution in theme and tone and language, a lot of his motifs and structures are reused from novel to novel. 1Q84 is, by all accounts, a lot like Hard Boiled Wonderland, but bigger and sharper.

Is it just me, or is Fight Club basically the result of crossing Falling Down with Iron John?

Fritz

To restate Orwell, what makes us admire men is the strength that comes from struggle. So to say that Palahniuk (and Orwell for that matter) sympathizes with this urge is correct, but he, at least in the context of Fight Club, sees its ultimate futility.

Heck, there's probably reading for Harvey Mansfield or Bill Bennett in here somewhere. What's the solution, the salvation, for the Narrator? It's not a descent into pre-historic tribalism, human sacrifice and the war of all against all, i.e., Durden's Project Mayhem, it's the love of a good woman (or, as he says, "kind of like", he's still in many ways a boy, even at the end). If you want to make the tortured political point, if nothing else Fight Club is one way of seeing that conservativisim and fascism aren't points on continuum, but different solutions to the same underlying problem: how can you civilize men without making them less than man?

dr_eats_babies

Hmmm...if you're saying that the film improves on the novel I agree, but I'm not quite clear what you dislike about the film. For my part, I find it to be a fascinating cultural artifact. It posits a world where the driving problem is the meaninglessness of consumer culture, but that problem only had the particular flavor found in Fight Club during the brief interregnum between the end of the cold war and the beginning of the so-called global war on terror. Whatever its flaws, the film captured that, and I can't think of another film that did.

Wax Banks

Scott --

I do wanna hear/talk more about this, but (1) shouldn't the script be very present in this post? Fincher didn't film the novel, after all, he filmed its adaptation; and (2) it seems to me that what you're saying Fincher does visually in those 'lose a fight' scenes is in any case embedded in the narrative -- the film is busy undermining audience sympathy from very early on, and the whole third act (i.e. the last ~1/4 of the script) depicts the narrator's horror at, and rejection of, his butch-ideological response to, in a simplistic sense, his problems with dads and girlfriends. The desire > aspire > identify > subvert > reject movement is the shape of the screenplay itself; I don't think Fincher had to go to war with the script to make Project Mayhem seem juvenile.

OTOH I read the book after watching the film, and the film's richer and funnier, but less unsettling in some ways (I marveled at the eerie final chapter (a reminder of how desperately the men around Jack want Tyler Durdens) (Tylers Durden?) and, if memory serves, the fact that Jack does feel a lump in Marla's breast and doesn't tell her about it -- a turn the film only hints at). So I'm tempted to read some of the film's self-subversion into the book, which I don't much remember.

Wax Banks

(I also suspect that the long-shot choice for the 'pick a fight and lose' scenes has as much to do with their focus on supporting characters (not Norton/Pitt), i.e. the world of the narrative rather than its plot, as with ironic/playful distance. After all, don't we go back to Jack in his boss's office right afterward, in more conventional framing?)

Wax Banks

(The basic point of my two comments is that this is a very Fincher-centric post, and I worry that reading framing choices in this way might introduce some distortions into analysis, when simpler explanations for such choices are available. e.g. The 'lose a fight' scenes are vignettes, and/so they're filmed that way. I don't think it's about Palahniuk himself at all; such antagonism would've been largely worked out at the script stage.)

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