Pointing Issues in Society in the Fight Club by David Fincher
The story is told trough the eyes of a narcoleptic named Jack, played by Edward Norton (American History X,). Jacks only joys in life are the possessions he owns, until he meets Tyler Durden played Brad Pitt (Se7en). Tyler believes that it is self-destruction that makes life worth living, not self- improvement. The very same night they meet, an explosion blows up Jacks apartment and possessions. Tyler offers Jack a place to stay but on one condition Tyler I want you to hit me as hard as you can. Despite Jacks doubts about hitting Tyler he does and discovers that fighting for recreation can give the ultimate high. This leads to them setting up Fight club which gradually sweeps across America taking with it Tylers influence and philosophy.
The big shock of the story comes when Jack realises he is Tyler, and he came to life as a means of escaping his agonizingly boring life. When he realises this he must deal with the dramatic consequences of Tylers actions.
The narration is restricted as its told by Jack, and therefore has a voice over. The films structure is un-conventional as its cause and effect is told in a non-linear narrative, looking at the decisions Jack has made and how they has effected the plot.
The sequence I am analysing made up of four sections. The first is in the parking lot when Tyler asks Jack to hit him, the second is in a movie projection booth where Tyler splices sex organs into films, the third is in the Pressman hotel dinner area and kitchens where Tyler urinates in the soup, and the final reverts back to the parking lot where they start fighting. There is a mixture of cardinal and catalyser events, which take place during the piece which both, help the audience to build an idea of the characters personality and start the story rolling at a faster pace..
The first scene of the sequence consists of static long shots and medium shots. A shot reverse shot in medium close up is used to put stress on Tylers bizarre request and to cutaway to Jacks bemused reaction. All shots are from low levels, which helps the characters overpower the audience.
The most notable features of this scene is the way the characters are framed in the doorway of the bar, right in the centre of the screen creating a symmetrical looking shot. Either side of them rubbish is wrapped in black bags. However the bags are un-even as on Jacks side the bags are in a large bin, yet on Tylers side the bags are strewn on the ground. I feel this demonstrates Roland Barthes semic code. In this case rubbish represents the characters or their philosophy – Jack finds pleasure from possessions he doesnt need, therefore the possessions have control over him – the bin is his possessions and he is the rubbish confined to the bin. Where as Tyler only takes what is essential for his existence, he doesnt need such useless possessions therefore is free of the bin. This theory is further supported by something Tyler says later in the film We are the same decaying organic matter as everything else. I believe that this is meant literally.
The next two scenes use the fourth look of film. This is when the character (in this case both) looks directly at the camera to address the viewers. This is rarely used well in this sort of film as it makes the audience feel uncomfortable. However in this particular film it works remarkably well in lightening the mood of the scene to let the audience get to grips with the situation and what Tyler wants Jack to do and more importantly why. The framing of these shots is very interesting as Jack is always in a medium close up and always has his back to Tyler who is always in the background. They occasionally share out the dialogue. The idea of symmetry is echoed when Tyler is framed in between the two film reels.
There are some interesting extreme close ups and cutaways in these scenes, especially when the camera imitates the movement made when Tyler cuts the frame. There are number of dynamic shots used during these scenes such as when the camera tracks sideways in the projection booth, another
tracking shot to reveal some of the audience in the theatre, the pan across and down from Tyler to Jack at the table in a close up shot as Tyler walks passed, and when the camera pans across from the soup to Tylers boxers, and then cuts to another shot and pans up from a medium shot of Tyler and focuss its attention on Jack as he enters the room.
Colour and lighting
The use of colour and lighting during the sequence is very interesting. The lighting used most predominantly throughout the film is a very naturalistic form of lighting. The clinical bluey lighting used in the car lot and the kitchen of the hotel is featured quite often, and the noirish lighting used in the projection booth is used a lot. The bright flash of light in the dim theatre illustrates well the frame that he has spliced in.
The colour of the picture itself seems as though it has been bleached during the developing stage, a technique Fincher used in Se7en. When this combines with some of the lighting it creates some excellent effects. During the scenes in the parking lot there appears to be a blue filter over the lens. This works for both creating a realistic lighting look and gives a lot of atmosphere to the piece.
The colour and style of the outfits worn by the characters is quite contrasting. In the first scene Tylers combination of a red leather jacket, sky blue t-shirt, jogging bottoms and workmens boots acts as a symbolic/semic code to visually describe his personality to the audience. He wears whatever he wants, not what some fashion designer says he should wear.
In the book he gets all his clothes free from lost property places in leisure centres as he is very anti-consumerism. Jacks costume is completely contrasting as he wears dull colours and a typical suit. This is also a semic/symbolic code as it represents his boredom. Jacks outfit remains the same throughout the sequence on the other hand Tylers changes in every section of the sequence. This helps to illustrate that Jack is merely looking back over previous events as the plot starts at the end of the story.
Throughout the majority of the sequence there isnt any non-diegetic sound apart from at the very end when Tyler punches Jack the bass beat of a song starts. This beat continues until they start fighting properly, at which point the rest of the drum instruments are added.
All throughout the sequence it is absolutely full of non-diegetic sounds which when analysed it is apparent that there are a great deal of tracks playing at once, some unnoticeable and some very obvious. There are a great deal of diegetic sounds that occur both in the foreground and in the background during this sequence including the sound of crickets in bushes, foot movements, the distant sound of traffic, the sound of the machinery used to splice the film can be heard as well, such as the cutting of the frames, the tape ripping, and the clamp fixing the frames together and also the beeping of the cigarette burns, the five second notice bell for the projectionist, and the song from inside the movie theatre which as it cuts to the theatre suddenly increases in volume, the sound of plates and cutlery being fiddled with and the pianists playing in the background. Some of which are Barthes Reference/Cultural codes.
The traffic in the first scene acts as a reference/cultural code as it tells us that the bar is situated close to a motorway. Sound design is quite important at the end of this scene as the sound of a lorry passing is manipulated and combined with the voice over to put emphasis on the break in narrative and time freeze. Another interesting use of sound is when Tyler is trying to urinate into the soup and cannot go so he pours water on the floor to make him need to go. The audience also hears this sound making them want to go as well.
The majority of the editing in the sequence is basic, such as straight cuts and there are quite a few match cuts used to cut when a movement is carried out, for example when Tyler punches Jack it cuts from a medium shot as he swings his punch, to a long shot as he connects. This particular example is interesting as it goes against convention cutting from a long shot to a close up or medium shot as the punch connects.
The most interesting use of editing to create time and space is when the editing stops time allowing the narrator to go back over some background information. This is by means of a freeze frame to stop the action then go back in time. The cut used to join the sequence up again when the paused time scene is over is a basic straight cut. This makes the flow of the piece a lot smoother as you barely even notice the break in time, whereas if it reverted back to the freeze frame
then un-paused the characters it would not be as fluid. Another interesting editing technique used is a fill reveal frame where the camera tracks in front of a shadowed machine and cuts to another shot.
I conclude by stating that it has been difficult covering all the important features of the scene and features in enough detail in such a short essay. There are many other features I could mention in detail such as Jacks Oedipal journey in the film, the effect this sequence has on the equilibrium and how Jack must resolve it, psychoanalysis in the film and many other topics.
On a final note I feel that there are many binary oppositions in the film. The main being Jack v Tyler. This is more in the form of consumerism v anti-consumerism, which is what each character originally stands for. Ask yourself who is the bad guy.