Posts tagged film
Posts tagged film
Last night, I read the final chapter of Chuck Palahniuk’s career-making novel, Fight Club. And I felt a lot of things. I felt in awe of an author who can command the attention of even the most passive reader with a unique writing style that demands that the book be read. I felt envious that I hadn’t written it, that I hadn’t ‘figured out’ the ins and outs of writing with blistering pace, or the way in which Palahniuk can talk his reader through an anecdote about waiters urinating in minestrone and the ins and outs of life insurance, without making it feel pointless or clumsy or, most importantly of all, dull. I felt a duty to live out the pro/anti-anarchic message, that ultimately nobody can escape life, not even a split-personality insomniac, with a chain-smoking headcase sort-of-girlfriend from whose mother bags of fat are stolen and turned into a ‘collagen trust fund’. We’re all different but we all have to face life.
But the biggest thing I felt was guilt.
You see, I am one of them, in this case. One of the people that watched the film first. I am one of the people that reeled back in thrilling revelation when ‘the big twist’ was revealed, completely unaware that, hey kid, you know that this film was a book first? That someone actually sat down and wrote it and provided you with a framework for the great anti-novels that succeeded it? The truth is, I love the book and I love the film. Equally. Controversial I know but it’s the truth. There are parts of the story that the book did way better.
But there are parts of the story that, dare I say, the film did better.
Before you burn me at the stake, let us regard these cultural masterpieces with objective eyes. Throw aside the attitude of ‘the original is always better’, because, for one, Palahniuk actually addresses this in the afterword.
'Now this is the first rule of fight club: there is nothing a blue-collar nobody in Oregon with a public-school education can imagine that a million-billion people haven’t already done…’
- Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club Afterword, pg. 218
So haters, stop hating. Palahniuk even tells us himself that the pursuit of originality lacks validity in such a media-saturated culture. People have ideas every single minute of every single day, so no matter what you come up with, there will always be someone on this planet that has thought it, tried it, seen it, heard it. Maybe even written it.
The difference is what you can do with an old idea. Isn’t this essentially what David Fincher’s screen adaption of Fight Club is doing? He’s taking the idea from Palahniuk - the seven page story that eventually grew into a culture-defining novel - and expanding it. He expands it in a bunch of ways, the same way that he fails to expand it in others, which I accept; no film-maker has every been fully faithful to the book.
But critically, he manages to expand on Tyler Durden.
This is not because of Brad Pitt, even if I do have a man-crush on him (not in a gay way, I just think he’s a beautiful man). Fincher made more of a character of Tyler Durden than Palahniuk did, in my opinion. And it works. I feel that the Tyler Durden I see in the film is a little more complete, a little more believable and whole than his literary counterpart. And visually, we can see why Jack/Joe (depending on your allegiance with either the book or the film) looks up to him; he is well-built, strong, fearless, and funny. He isn’t funny in the book. And some may disagree that Fincher made a bad call with this - making the eventual antagonist a witty one-liner machine - but I feel that it just brings about another enviable aspect to his character. ‘Do I go with ass or crotch?’
Let’s not forget about the book. The book makes Tyler someone that you only catch a fleeting glance of, that you hear about but you never really meet, and this works better for other reasons. It provides a truly innovative insight into the world seen through the mist of insomnia, that people are only defined by the glimpses that you catch of them before they go, and so how could Joe distinguish him from reality? Reality has ceased to be - we are constantly caught somewhere between a dream and life. As a result, Palahniuk grants himself permission to ‘cut to the chase’; to evict the unnecessary transitional bits in between each event; to blend anecdotes and the immediacy of action in the present; to drop in phrases that function only as exclamative thoughts, feelings and fears, cleverly compiled in a motif of ‘I am Joe’s _______’. The way everything blends yet doesn’t blend, the uneven edge to the plot structure and the pace, these are all things that a film couldn’t get away with. It would be unfollowable. Fincher had to find a more rigid backbone to the story, because in some places, the story is more an encyclopaedic scrutiny of capitalism, of attitudes of uniqueness and sameness, of dissatisfaction with existence. One all.
I could keep going, but that would lack reasoning. I’ve made my statement. I’ve tried to back it up. But really, I loved every word in the book. It is beautifully crafted, seemingly effortless and sharp and fast. It will eat you up if you read it, race you faster than any other book has, and spit you out the other end gasping for air. But that doesn’t mean the film doesn’t live up to it. For once, we have a movie ‘spin-off’ that is actually brilliant. Yes, it’s based on the book. Yes, it can’t follow the book completely. But let’s not let this undermine Fincher’s incredible achievement; he made Fight Club a book that movie-goers actually wanted to read. That I wanted to read. And that’s pretty cool in itself.
So yes, if you have only seen the film, go and read the book and have your mind blown. But if you are one of the tiny minority left that has only read the book, go and watch the film. You might be surprised.