A Movie Analysis of David Fincher’s Fight Club

David Fincher’s Fight Club demands the viewer to be hyper aware of what would usually be auditorily mundane. The audible result is a wild exaggeration of the real thing, conveying the full power, pain and impact of throwing or receiving a blow to the face or body. Sound designer Ren Klyce and Foley artist John Roesch worked together to create a variety and texture to the punches and the dramatization of the environment in scenes through interweaving between dialogue, music and Foley. Starting at 1:35:19, “The Narrator”, the unnamed main character, comes into shot watching Tyler Durdan praise a new member. Under the train rails, the clatters and screeching of the tracks are expected to be booming from the audience, however, when the camera pans to the main character’s face, the dialog from the conversation between Tyler and Angel Face is gradually muted so that the camera rests on The Narrator’s irritated expression, the rhythm of the train moving on the rails above him as the only sound.

At 1:35:33, The Narrator is still in focus but at an extreme wide shot, showing the rest of the members running of screen along with the beat of the train and the staccato rattling of the metal, transitioning to a scene starting at 1:35:40. While the obvious train rackets end by this scene, the clatters of the metal continues at a different tempo into the next scene where The Narrator and Angel Face are fighting. The two bodies that are about to fight are moving at an appropriate speed while the characters surrounding them are blurred out and slowed down, drawing in focus where the action will happen even though nothing has taken place yet.

The voices in the background are low, faded, and fluid, contrasting the tapping still playing from the train tracks. At 1:35:47, Angel Face takes the first punch. The sound is soft, matching the volume of the chanting in the background. The sounds of the punches coming from Angel Face are exactly what the audience would expect to hear from an “in-movie” punch. There is first the sound of two people’s flesh meeting, then a whip of air from the force, then the retraction. Once the fight is initiated, the background of the chanting becomes more audible. The audience is no longer assumed to be in The Narrator’s perspective of the scene and instead experiencing the fight as a reality. At 1:35:54, the punches shift to more of a smacking sound, a sharper and more jarring punch, rather than a “boxing punch” to not get lost in the gradually amplifying volume of the characters chanting around them.

At 1:36:03, The Narrator swings his first punch where Angel Face collapses onto the ground at 1:36:06. From that moment, a ringing in the background starts, fading out the chanting again so that there are barely any ambient noises. The only things heard are the ringing and the re-introduced tapped from the transition of the train scene, used to amplify and draw attention to the intensity and violence of each punch from the Narrator. At 1:36:16, a shot of a member’s open mouth yelling is muted except for the bass vibration of what would have been heard followed by a low and slow punch to Angel Face’s chest, auditorily paraphrasing the previous extreme close-up shot of the member’s mouth. At 1:36:22, everyone watching the fight is silent, letting the ringing project louder without interrupting the smacking sounds of the punches.

The fight ends with The Narrator’s voice stating, non-diegetic, “I wanted to breathe smoke”. Angel Face comes into shot for a final time at 1:37:09 to show his face completely bloodied and gasping softly for air, camera tracking away from him and toward Tyler and The Narrator where thunder is played before the two characters step outside, transitioning to the next event without breaking the scene completely. In the car, The Narrator and Tyler are arguing about the actions planned for Fight Club and are interrupted at 1:38:26 by a car’s horn blaring.

From that moment Tyler’s voice raises and the car’s engine plays in the background. Sentences move shorter allowing sounds from the car to be brought in in fragments, highlighting the intensity. At 1:38:56, the lights outside of The Narrator’s passenger window rush past at a higher speed, adding a whipping sound affect that the character’s in the realm would not realistically hear, but plays in the dramatization of the scene and gradually amplifies the aggression of the fight in the car. At 1:39:01, the camera cuts back and forth in shots between the wheels of the car and the interior of the car while the sound of the vehicle bumping over the road markers is constant. At 1:39:03, with the bumping of the road markers persistent, the camera moves to the front windshield where the light of truck moving towards the members is in center shot.

The bumping is no longer constant from that moment, but instead comes in on every fourth beat layered underneath Tyler’s voice. Each member of Fight Club has a turn speaking and at the fourth, when Tyler angrily speaks, the bumping re-joins, indicating the obvious danger. At 1:39:26, the sequence breaks when the car rushes right by the truck, wind whipping beside it. At 1:39:52, Tyler states “Why do you think I blew up your condo?”. Right before The Narrator responds, a single low beat is played. At 1:40:00, the tapping from the train tracks is returned, letting the audience understand that the rest of the audio from this moment is tied with the emotions and perspective of The Narrator. A two note humming plays once The Narrator silences and begins to contemplate the information of Tyler blowing up his condo. 1:40:12, the dual note humming amplified and moved towards droning while the car is moving uncontrolled. The first crash hits right at the expected pause of the droning at 1:40:32, where all noise expect for the destruction of the metal from the two cars is heard. The camera cuts between extreme close-up shots of the members in the back seat yelling and The Narrator acting visually upset.

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