Fight Club: Subliminal Tyler

Fight Club is David Fincher’s 1999 classic which is listed as an all-time great and is a certainty to be found on many peoples personal favourite films lists; however it’s not only it’s iconic story, great characters and extraordinary film-craft which makes Fight Club stand-out, it is the extreme detail in which it dives into, become not only a modern-classic; but a post-modern filmmaking master class. Its display of post-modernism is highlighted as within the opening sequences, before we are officially introduced to Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), a series of subliminal styled flashes occur showing our character, the idea that it is post-modern is due to how Tyler himself shows us later within the film how filmmaker’s can achieve subliminal messages. As we find out later in the film, its Jack (Edward Norton) who  creates Tyler as a manifestation of his sub-conscious, to cover-up and to cope with his unhappiness due his slowing fading life which is looked at as pointless; however the very moments where Tyler flashes on screen is carefully orchestrated and very telling.

The Office is the first time we see Tyler Durden; his expression is very confused and dazed; as if he had just fallen into a different universe wondering where he is. Jack’s lines “Everything is just a copy, of a copy, of a copy” as he scans work through a photocopier, it’s all very telling, urging us to realise Jack has just made Tyler! Tyler is just a copy of Jack; they are the same people!

Tyler is then seen next in the Hospital, the doctor tells Jack “Swing by First Methodist Tuesday nights. See the guys with testicular cancer. That’s pain.” but Tyler stands behind with a grin, almost laughing at him. Is he laughing at Jack’s issues? The Doctors advice? or simply the idea that people think they know what pain and trouble is.

Tyler carries on mocking our cast and characters, this time in the Therapy Sessions he appears, the leader orders “Let’s all of us follow Thomas’s example and really open ourselves up.” Tyler with his arm around the guy, looking smug but once again a face of ridicule; thinking to himself Jack’s not going to find answers here; these aren’t men!

Tyler then stands in between Marla and Jack as the pair seem to walk away and gaze at each-other after a very textbook meet-cute. He’s obstructing them, showing Jack the one thing he make’s him promise later on.. Stay away from Marla!

Then Tyler appears in Jack’s hotel welcome video, he is on the far right on the front row, screaming welcome almost telling the audience he is soon to appear, as Jack slowly looses hope.

Then we see Tyler, not a flash but a long drawn out shot just before the two officially meet. He’s wearing his hyper-real clothes, but the way it is filmed is important, Tyler almost emerges out of thin air but more so straight from Jack’s body as the two pass on the escalator! The camera then follows Tyler all the way up as if he was our main character.

Then Tyler and Jack finally meet side by side on the plane and the first line Jack says is “Look we have the same briefcase”, or in other words, “Look we are the same person”.

 

 

 

 

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Fight Club (1999)

Genre: Drama

Director: David Fincher

Writers: Chuck Palahniuk, Jim Uhls

Starring: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter

Rating: ★★★★★

Fight Club is something special, a film which is like no others in terms of story, action, characters and the ridiculous detail that has been sweated over to make everything just that extra bit phenomenal. It is a film which amazes you the first time you watch it, and then the second, third, fourth all have the same effect as you start to notice little in-jokes and hidden elements. The writing is great, dialogue beyond great, with the acting, directing and look being completely lovable and “sexy”. Fight Club is definitely a favourite, definitely a classic and definitely a film which deserves every single bit of praise it gets.

Our main focus is Jack (Edward Norton), Jack isn’t his real name, we don’t find out his real name, but will we call him Jack, for Jack sounds better than simply “the narrator”. He is the narrator however, and he tells his story looking back on how he has ended up spitting vowels onto a dirty gun that’s been shoved down his throat. He’s a slave to Ikea, his job and his insomniac mind which will not let him sleep, on the way back from work he arrives to find his condo blazing and his much loved furniture nothing but burnt fragments lying on the floor. He has nothing, everything that he is was in that apartment, and so he rings Tyler (Brad Pitt). Tyler is the most interesting single serving friend Jack has ever met; Tyler sells soap and briefly shared his plane journey with Jack earlier that day and the two meet and Jack stays at Tyler’s house. The lifestyle is different, there is no nice furniture, TV, hot water, yet Jack is happy, he is free. Tyler and Jack create Fight Club, a place where men can be free, where pain is a replacement for fear and violence is a replacement for crying, there is no therapy just fighting. However Fight Club catches on, gets out of control, and soon spirals into Project Mayhem which could spell oblivion, but what it means for Jack is much much more.

Fight Club is mind-blowing in every sense of the word, to tell more of the story is a crime but it withholds one of the greatest plot twists and endings to a film. Jack is a modern-day man; he represents most men, a generation of men which have been raised in a feminist society, but is that right? The film speaks so much, Tyler speaks so much, and when analysed you can see so many ideas and the brilliance behind the concept. The concept of this story is great, two men, Tyler and Jack creating something so simple yet so dangerous and something that is apparently somewhat nature for men. It is much more though than the fighting, Jack and Tyler have a relationship with Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) a lost soul, yet it brings so much excitement and thrill. The story involves humour, everything from the character of ‘Bob’ to fight club homework assignments, then the action with explosions and soap, and finally the mystery, the absolute awe of what has been created and witnessed.

However one of the most likeable aspects of Fight Club is our characters, Jack for starters is just a slave to the world, but what he turns into is very different, rebellious and free we like him and admire him. Tyler is the definition of fun; no-one who sells soap and wears flower suits can be as cool as Tyler. Then Marla, it all starts with Marla, she is witty, and despite neglected she is so important. Brad Pitt is brilliant and so is Edward Norton, they portray their characters flawlessly, Pitt is fun just like Tyler, whilst Norton although more serious is likable and sympathetic just like Jack.

Fight Club is in my opinion the best film Fincher has ever directed and he certainly is remembered for it. The directing is new, and clever, the explosion scene in the condo is a single moment which highlights this alongside the opening title sequence. Fincher creates a dark gloomy look but it complements the exciting characters and story in a strange way. The effects are great, the fighting looks real, the blood looks even more real and the aftermath of “Blondie’s” fight looks brilliant. Everything within Fight Club seems faultless. The score should also be mentioned, its electric feel is needed whilst the end song is somewhat nostalgic to hear, let alone completely complimentary.

Fight Club is unexplainable, once watched more than once your admiration increases. The writing is one of my favourites, from dialogue to the wrapping up of each storyline and plot. The overall product is flawless and there’s no wonder why it is regarded so highly.  It is my favourite performances from both lead actors whilst they are also both of my favourite characters. Fight Club is a classic, and there’s no debating about that.

 

 

 

 

 

Zodiac (2007)

Genre: Mystery, Crime, Drama

Director: David Fincher

Writers: James Vanderbilt, Robert Graysmith

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo

Rating: ★★★½

Zodiac is a film that targets a specific audience, an audience that likes to think and an audience that likes to keep guessing throughout. I wanted to love this film so much being a fan of David Fincher and his notorious work, however maybe it was that high expectation that made me slightly disappointed. Zodiac is clever, insightful and brave but somehow its ability to overcomplicate ruins what could have been a prestigious film.

The film surrounds the true case of the Zodiac killer that haunted the area of San Francisco Bay in the 1960’s and 70’s becoming one of America’s most famous serial killers. The mysterious individual taunts and terrorises police with letters and cryptic messages foreboding his future murders and explaining the gruesome details of his previous cold victims. We start to follow Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr) two employees working for the areas local newspaper who personally get invited by the killer onto the case; Graysmith alongside Avery starts to come obsessed in finding the Zodiac killer. However after claiming to have killed a handful of victims the messages and the case seems to dry up with Avery losing his job and a new Inspector Toschi on the job. Despite the years passing the investigators still try and find the truth in what becomes a long and intensive battle. Graysmith years later creates a book which eventually puts him on track however Inspector David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) haunted by the Zodiac killer still doesn’t believe his findings as they battle to find one of the most notorious serial killers in America.

The story adapted by David Graysmith’s book and real life findings is put onto screen by James Vanderbilt and Fincher which results in Zodiac becoming very interesting with the case coming alive with some good direction and entertainment. The first half of the film and story is very fast-paced with Jake Gyllenhaal’s character taking centre stage and murders becoming quick headlines; however it then turns very droning and slow as the story enters many years later. The film attempts to lure the audience into the second half with this great and real life unsolved mystery however at times it is similar to an endurance test with the running time becoming more than two and a half hours long. The story of Paul Avery becomes somewhat pointless as we find out later in the film whilst Mark Ruffalo’s annoying Inspector Toschi seems to prolong events by rejecting Graysmith’s findings.  Eventually choosing the solo effort route Graysmith creates a very fast paced and tense finale which is one of the highlights of the film then leading onto the subtle confirmation and closure of the Zodiac Killer. At times it becomes very complicated and it is that which somehow ruins so much potential and such a great narrative.

The acting within Zodiac was brilliant and on this aspect you can’t complain nor fault.  Jake Gyllenhaal once again shows real talent with such versatility in his role and for me he is such an underrated actor. His portrayal of Graysmith was very realistic and just like the rest of the cast he really showed the intensity of the real-life case also making the audience connect. Downey Junior’s Avery was very impressive and he turned into two polar opposites within the film whilst Ruffalo as Toschi brought along excitement and an element of interest.  Another key element within this film was ofcourse Fincher’s direction and more so the cinematography and scenery shots which broke up tense scenes and isolated claustrophobic locations. The murders and more so the end sequence was really successfully captured by Fincher as he delivered once again a tense nervy chain of events.

Zodiac as much as it is good and you want to love it, holds a lot of flaws which can really bring it down. The long run time as I’ve stated really ruined this film alongside the concept however more so I found some parts rather sloppy. The story spreads out over a number of years but not much within the film world changes such as characters houses, appearances etc. it made for a somewhat sloppy look and proved to be a real spoiler. At times too events seemed to be pointless and although it followed true to the real life case no-doubt it did seem like a hopeless battle.

Zodiac isn’t my favourite piece of work by Fincher and if I’m honest it is most likely at the wrong end of the pile, however that doesn’t make it a terrible film. Although it requires endurance and a lot of thinking Zodiac can become very engaging and somewhat entertaining as you witness the case unfold and the intensity evolve. The acting and visuals are somewhat brilliant which again add to its list of qualities, Zodiac can be easily enjoyable and in a whole is just about worth-while to watch especially for what I believe is a great finale and closing sequence.

The Game (1997)

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Director: David Fincher

Writers: John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris

Starring: Michael Douglas, Deborah Kara Unger, Sean Penn

Rating:★★★★

The Game is a film which more than any other fulfils its “mystery thriller” genre as throughout it is a guessing game, making you constantly choose between fantasy and reality leading to some thrilling consequences. David Fincher again involves himself in a very dark-viewed story which can be somewhat haunting at times. Excellent acting alongside the great story highlighted by the final scenes really makes The Game an entertaining and intriguing film to watch but one which really tests your mind.

We follow the life of Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) a very wealthy San Francisco banker, however his wealth and intelligence does not fill the gap of being an absolute loner which sees him even spending his birthday with only himself for company.  In the year of his 48th birthday (the age his father sadly committed suicide) Nicholas’ brother Conrad (Sean Penn) returns with the greeting of a card which allows entry to unusual entertainment, a game provided by Consumer Recreation Services (CRS). Conrad however is not an equal to his brother, an addict to all kinds who’s surrendered to paranoia and fear. Giving in to curiosity Nicholas enrols to CRS and plays his own Game however as a consequence his life becomes a nightmare which sees him question what is real and what is the game eventually it consumes his life.

The story is something which The Game really thrives off and more so gains a lot of interest, the ending is something which is a huge plot twist and paradigm shift within Nicholas’s world too. Alongside being very intriguing and connecting the story also invests a lot into the building of three very unique characters. Nicholas is a character which is very true; rich and intelligent but envious of those with social popularity and a life something we could see being very realistic, the change which he shows throughout is very well written. The character of Conrad is also very important not only does he get the plot moving but the action; he’s dangerous and lethal bringing a lot of pace to the film. The third character is Christine (Deborah Kara Unger) who brings pace but the development needed for Nicholas as they form a not so conventional relationship.

The acting is good all-around from the cast, Michael Douglas however is the highlight as Nicholas Van Orton and his scenes and portrayal comes across very realistic. David Fincher’s direction for me is also a significant element which makes The Game somewhat haunting and thrilling. As always associating himself with a dark story some scenes are flawless as dark dismal settings are portrayed much like in Alien3 and Se7en bringing a very doomy atmosphere to the screen. He also chooses to use similar score to create this very droning and foreboding mood which as an audience makes us alert and on-edge.

The only thing which ruins The Game is at times the balance between pace is very bad, it would have benefited more from a constant fast-pace which would add to the excitement despite taking away some intrusive feel.  Despite the ending wrapping up everything very well before this the mixture between reality and “the game” can be somewhat frustrating to watch, but once reflected upon afterwards it seems to be a clever aspect which only draws the audience into this false sense of security.

The Game is a film which is very worth-while to watch not only for a very good finale but for its entertainment and ability to test not only your mind but your sense of safety within reality throughout its running time. Alongside being entertaining it is also very thrilling as its burst of pace and action complemented by Fincher’s direction is effective also creating a sense of horror. Rounded off by a great performance by Michael Douglas The Game outweighs its minor downfalls and becomes an almost classic piece of film.

 

 

David Fincher as an Auteur #2

My second post discussing David Fincher as an auteur will focus on his depressing and negative endings which often show failure, sacrifice or suicide. It is a common thing for Fincher to involve himself with a film that is actually gritty, grim and dark such as Se7en, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and even The Game; however the endings and climax are always very important.

Fincher’s first directing role in Alien 3 shows this, it’s a cruel horrible world inside this prison where you are only waiting for your imminent death which is slow and tiring. An alien creature invades along with a lost and injured Ripley, a female isolated in this male dominated society and world which sets up a very harsh storyline. However at the end of the film there is no victory or success for either the prisoners or Ripley who we follow throughout, following a spray of guns the prisoners are shot and Ripley commits sacrificial suicide as she jumps into a pit of burning flames. As an audience we have nothing to be happy about, our main characters are all dead and with no victory showing how rubbish and cruel the situation was.

The same feeling is portrayed in the ending of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; throughout the film we follow the subplot which shows the growing relationship between our two main characters Mikael and Lisbeth. Lisbeth is someone who we feel very attached too and sympathetic towards, however at the end of the film dressed up and ready to meet Mikael she witnesses him leave with another woman leaving her distressed and upset. It is heart-breaking to watch, again there is no positive ending for the film or our character showing just how cruel this world is and society is.

Se7en and Fight Club two of Fincher’s big classics and all-time greats also follow this same outlook and perspective, mainly focusing on suicide. At the end of Se7en our main character witnesses his wife’s head decapitated in box and then gets himself arrested for shooting her murderer which is the serial killer being chased throughout the film. We can only assume that Mills is going to spend the rest of his life in a prison cell, alone and hopeless yet he knew this would be the chosen path when he pulled the trigger on John Doe therefore technically committing suicide as he kills of his future. Fight Club has the similar ending after an emotional and somewhat crazy journey our main character stands with a gun in his mouth ready to end it all, the same situation in The Game. Fincher creates this very depressing feeling of injustice, giving the message that the good guys don’t win in society. Se7en even ends with Somerset’s lines “The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.” I agree with the second part.” This sums up the films and in a way Fincher’s message.

It is fair to say that Fincher has a negative look on society and life in general especially in his first set of directing roles. It seems that if you want Fincher behind your film, you better make sure there are no happy endings and it isn’t a romantic comedy.  Negative films and depressing endings are definitely and unarguably a trademark of David Fincher, if you didn’t see my last post on his representation of women click here.

David Fincher as an Auteur #1

Just before I review Se7en the next film on my list, I thought it would be good to analyse Fincher as an auteur and pick out a key trademark in between my reviews. So here is my first obvious and somewhat brutal trademark of Fincher – his absolute expressed hate for women. Now thinking back to any films in general that you’ve watched it is a common occurrence to have a woman playing the damsel in distress and for her to get injured and hurt, but it seems that Fincher goes that little step further in ALL of his films to get across the message that its males that dominate society.

His first major film whilst being in the prestigious and important director’s seat was Alien 3 (1992) where he first instigated this hatred for women. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) crashing onto an all-male prison island is completely isolated and is in a society completely dominated by men. She is stripped of her femininity by appearance and is treated poorly as she is undermined throughout. She is the only female character in this film and despite battling this Alien creature showing some signs of strength she is at threat to male dominance constantly. The ending of the film despite a heroic sacrifice by Ripley shows that she didn’t win her battle as she leaps into a pit of fire not only killing herself but the unborn queen alien. The overall message of the film seems to sum up that a male’s world is brutal and violent, when women simply enter this world they can’t win, they’re hopeless. It might seem much read into and a vague judgement, or maybe it is all just a coincidence?

Se7en (1995) Fincher’s second most popular film, it follows similarly the same idea of Alien 3. In the criminal world it is dominated by males, there is not a single female police officer or woman with a high-status or role within the film. Once again this male dominated society is absolutely brutal with murders and serial killers, something a woman surely couldn’t handle? – Well according to Fincher. Detective Mill’s (Brad Pitt) wife is the main female character within the film; we only see her do one or two things throughout? And one is occupying that feminine role within the kitchen as the men do the hard gritty jobs. In the final scene as none of us can surely forget, we see her head in a box as John Doe completes his final sin. Completely uncalled for, no reason whatsoever that she was killed other than to fulfil John Doe’s plan. However and despite this coincidence again, just like Alien 3 our only female main character is dead and can’t survive in this male dominated society.

The Game (1997), it is a strange film to say the least as most characters play a double-role, one in this fake world “the game” and the other in real life reality that doesn’t become too clear till the end. Our main protagonist is a man who is in the business world and once again no female characters are competing in this society, males dominate completely. The main female character is Christine and even though she is playing her role in “the game” she is presented as highly promiscuous, deceitful and manipulative.  Even after the game has finished she still retains no power what so ever in this world.

Skipping Fight Club (1999) as the film itself presents too many things to even contemplate thinking about and looking into we jump to Panic Room (2002). A criminal world is again laid out for us, one dominated by males. The story plays very much to the damsel in distress stereotype; it labels our two female characters as weak and vulnerable for the majority of the film. It sets up this world where our main character Meg is in an absolutely fragile state recently divorced, an alcoholic (by the first two scenes) and relying on money from her ex-husband she is totally dependent. Alone and in charge with responsibility this brutal male world victimises her and her fragile severely diabetic daughter. Burglars, part of a criminal world (male dominated) break into their house and take advantage. Okay okay, two get killed and the other arrested as the female characters fight back however throughout the film they are vulnerable and still dependant on males. The daughter’s life is saved by the burglar and the intervention of Meg’s ex-husband causes helpful delays. The main message though is that women are inferior to males in society.

Finally, as if I carry on much more the term “male dominance” may become somewhat hypnotising I shall skip to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) a film actually based on book that was once drafted “Men who hate women”.  We follow a male journalist who’s in an industry that has become very financial and business like, once again something that women can’t handle. The only professional woman in the industry is his boss, who rather unprofessionally he has an affair with.  Our main female character is a subject of constant pain that is inflicted by males. A rape victim, and a sufferer of a hard life due to her abusive father she becomes a private investigator. Again isolated, socially and physically. Everyone who she reports to for either governmental or occupational reason is a male and one who eventually rapes her. The story itself follows a criminal case that investigates a series of murders where young girls and women are victims of brutal killings and rape. In the end of the film there is a happy fairy-tale ending set up as our main characters journalist Mikel and private investigator Lisbeth seem to be in a relationship, however as Lisbeth goes to meet him she witnesses him with his boss, riding off with her dreams dashed and once again alone in this male dominated world the film ends.

This is just all analytical reasoning, but it seems fair to say especially from my perspective that David Fincher likes his films to show male dominance and to play on the stereotype that it is females that need saving. Obviously this is a very controversial look, but nevertheless one that I am currently studying and that see quite frequently appearing and popular. Next time you watch a David Fincher film, future releases such as Gone Girl maybe? Or just an old classic bear in mind this trademark and see whether it fits.

Everyone’s thoughts and opinions? Discuss.