Plot Analysis and Interpretation of the Movie Fight Club
Once you get past the initial violent context of the movie, Fight Club, the viewer bears witness to an intriguing narrative about a man with Multiple Personality Disorder. Revolving around three central characters; a nameless narrator (Edward Norton), his alter ego Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), and his girlfriend Marla Singer (Helena Bonham Carter), Fight Club is a movie about an individual who is engrossed in everything around him he does not know where it ends and he begins.
He not seeks to redefine himself in Tylers image, but also everyone and everything in society. The narrator uses his imaginary friend, Tyler, and his following, Fight Club, as a means to escape everyday life and embark upon a journey of self discovery filled with mischief and mayhem. Using several key elements concerning the films plot line, like story time and narrative time, flashbacks, action time and suggestive language, the narrative is able to manipulate the storyline. Keeping the viewer in suspense as to not only the events of the narrative but also whether or not the narrator is actually the one telling the story.
The movie begins in a most ambiguous state with the narrator and Tyler Durden waiting what is to be the climax. Almost immediately, the narrator begins to speak, going into a flashback of the events that lead up to that particular moment. Here is where the division between story time and narrative time is established. Story time is the amount of time it takes the narrator to tell a story.
In the opening scene Tyler checks his watch saying, Three minutes, this is it. Ground zero Two and a half, think of all we have accomplished. (Fight Club) The movie then shifts into the flashback sequence looping all the way around to the eventual ending, three minutes later. Narrative time is everything in between encompassing the entirety of the story as told by the narrator, which is about two and a half years. It begins once the narrator starts speaking and does not end until the story has concluded. Told in the form of a flashback we see the events occur in a chronological order. We watch them unfold as the narrator remembers them happening which becomes exceedingly difficult to understand.
Once the viewer realizes that the narrator has Multiple Personality Disorder, it becomes clear as to why the narrative is difficult to understand. The narrator does not have total control over his own story, manipulated by an outside source. His bouts with insomnia where he is never really awake or really asleep, I cant sleep-have I been sleeping and his feelings of dejavu are all keeping the narrator from telling the entire story. Time as both personalities begin to blend so much that the narrator never really knows who he is. Therefore, he has little to no control over what he tells to the viewer. Tyler is able to keep control of the narrator by forcing him never to talk about him with other people. This manipulation is essential to keeping the movie in a state of perpetual unknowing for both the viewer and the narrator.
Tyler manipulates the narrative time so easily because not even the narrator knows that it is occurring. Immediately the movie goes into a continuous flashback sequence told from the point of view or narrators conscious mind. Influenced by his subconscious the narrator conveys the plot as instructed and hears only what he is told. Events are not rearranged like in As I Lay Dying or Beloved, rather details are excluded or changed based on the perspective of the narrator all in effort to keep the viewer from knowing the entire truth. When members of Project Mayhem kidnap the police commissioner to convince him not to pursue the prosecution of Fight Club, the narrator sees his alter ego leading the charge so that is what he conveys to the viewer. In actuality, he is the one who orchestrates everything but only his subconscious mind is aware of that.
Duration of sequences is also crucial to the manipulation of the narrative paying close attention to the amount of time Tyler spends alone with the narrator. The viewer discovers that these lengthened, while the narrators interactions with the world are exceedingly condensed. Very little time is actually spent devoted to the fight scenes. However, sequences like the narrators and Tyler first encounters at the airport and bar, the chemical burn and the car crash are all extended. Therefore, each time Tyler can manipulate the narrative to his desires. Each of the these instances the narrator is most directly being influenced by Tyler and it becomes important because each time it happens the narrator losses control a little more.
First, he gets the mild-mannered man to get into a fight by questioning his knowledge of himself, Cmon. How much can you really know about yourself if youve never been in a fight? (Fight Club) Later he convinces the narrator to let the car run wild in the rain at high speeds, Stop trying to control everything and just let go he tells him. (Fight Club) If the narrator believes it then so to does the viewer because he or she has no other choice.
Tyler convinces the narrator to trust and follow him through his actions but more importantly his words. Words can hurt, they can show concern and they can especially influence. Language
throughout the movie plays just as important a role as the actions of the characters. Tyler gains control of the narrator by talking to him in a certain manner. He does not get the narrator to hit him immediately he has to coerce him into it, making the narrator believe that he does not fully know himself. The same is true with the chemical burn and the car crash; Tyler starts by physically overpowering the narrator but eventually does not have to because the narrator gives in to Tylers words and thoughts. As the narrator begins to submit to Tylers will so to does the viewer.
Tylers words bring people to believe that their lives have brought them to a state of solidarity and confinement We are the all singing all dancing crap of the world (Fight Club). Using repetition, Tyler drowns out individuals thoughts for that of his own. The first rule of Fight Club is you dont talk about Fight Club, the second rule of Fight Club is you dont talk about Fight Club, these words echo throughout the entire movie (Fight Club).
The members are so devote to Tylers philosophy that even when they run into another member they will not even acknowledge them. As his followers in Project Mayhem are working throughout the Paper Street Soap Company he has a microphone blaring You are not special, you are not unique You are not special, you are not unique (Fight Club). Repeated these words so many times that everyone comes to believe them including the viewer. He or she finds themselves compelled to talk and act like Tyler, they want to believe in his philosophy.
If a cowboy has the reigns of a horse, he or she dictates its actions and movements in a sense he or she controls the horse. Tyler is everything the narrator is not but so greatly desires to be; handsome, smart, ambitious, and a leader. The narrator looks to Tyler as a role model. He trusts him, emulates him, and does what he says no matter what it is. Through the use of several tests; getting into his first fight, the chemical burn, the car crash and preventing him from acknowledging his existence, Tyler influences the narrator and eventually gains control of him. Seen in a conversation between the narrator and Marla, he mimics Tyler as he says; This conversation is over (Fight Club). Once he has control Tyler can and does change what the narrator reveals to the viewer. He effects what the viewer sees, hears, knows and comprehends, by doing this Tyler keeps his identity secret until the climax. By controlling the narrator, Tyler controls the narrative and thusly controls the audience.
In Fight Club, the narrative time takes up the majority of the plot line making it essential to the understanding of the story. However, in the case of this narration the viewer finds that the narrator has manipulated much of it although at no fault of his own. His subconscious controls him at times coercing him into saying and doing things he would not ordinarily do. This becomes important to the viewer because we believe what we se and hear on the screen in front of us.