Fight Club (1999) – Film review by Andrea Carnevali

Fight Club ⭐⭐⭐⭐ ½

An insomniac office worker and a devil-may-care soap maker form an underground fight club that evolves into much more. Fight Club is being screened for Andrea’s Film Club at Chiswick Cinema on Tuesday 19 March 2024.

I’ve been rewatching “fight Club” in preparation to my film club, this Tuesday 19 March at the Chiswick Cinema. And you know what? I think I liked it more this time than I ever did.

It’s ironic that slogan of the film is “you don’t talk about fight club”, because to be honest, this feels like the perfect film to dissect, deconstruct, analyse, study… and talk about!

Surprisingly, Fight Club didn’t do well at all when it was first released in 1999. A lot of that was probably to do with the way it was advertised and sold to the us, just as a violent film, with hunky Brad Pitt in it. (I can imagine fans of Legends of the fall, Seven Years in Tibet or Meet Joe Black going to see this and running away from it like scared chickens).

What wasn’t quite sold at the time was that sharp, insightful and satirical tone, which in my view is the best thing in the film.

Yes, of course, it is violent. And the violence depicted is raw, graphic, and unflinching, especially in the first part (as the film progresses it becomes more and more cartoony, until we can actually begin to laugh about it too), but it is also integral to the narrative, character development and themes that the film is setting out to explore: masculinity, aggression and repressed emotions.

What are those brutal fights themselves if not pure visualisations of the character’s emotional struggle? A struggle to find his own identity, to rebel against the constraints of society, against consumerism and conformity and to reclaim that sense of power and control in a world that seems to marginalize and emasculate him.

And so that “fight club” from the title, is a space where people can unleash their frustrations, anger, and primal instincts in a controlled environment, finding a sense of liberation and empowerment through physical combat.

In other words, the violence becomes a sort of catharsis and release from the monotony and alienation of the everyday lives.

All this makes it sounds very heavy and cerebral, but the film is anything but. Yes, it is a dark and thought-provoking film that pushed boundaries, challenged conventions, but it is also very, very funny, unpredictable, and moves fast like a train.

Today, 25 years after its release, it’s just as relevant as it was back then and despite its struggle to find an audience then, it’s now considered not just one of the defining films of the 90s, but of film history itself (it’s currently sitting at number #14 on the highest rated film list of IMDb).

Directed by the masterful David Fincher, known for his visually striking and psychologically intense films, Fight Club is a cinematic experience that transcends genres and expectations. Fincher’s meticulous (and infamous) attention to detail, his innovative storytelling techniques (the film is packed with ideas and style!) and his distinct visual flair set him apart as a one of the most interesting and visionary directors in modern cinema.

There is so much at play here, starting from the mesmerizing cinematography that captures both the gritty urban landscapes and the characters’ emotional turmoil with stark beauty as lights and shadows are used to enhance that sense of unease and tension throughout.

Meanwhile the dynamic camera movements help to convey the characters’ emotional states with constant unconventional framing, tilted angles, and off-kilter compositions, all of which evoke a sense instability, that once again mirrors the characters’ psychological turmoil.

Fincher uses every single innovative idea in the book and in fact adds a couple of chapters to it, as he moves his camera left and right, up and down, and, guided by the wild boiling emotions of his characters, he even shakes it to the point that the film comes off from its sprockets (even the special effects were ahead of its time).

The editing is just as furious, but never confusing, and it has fun at playing tricks on you all the time, with the inclusion of subliminal frames too (no spoiler here for those who have not seen it).

And while all this is happening, the sound design immerses you in the chaotic and visceral world of the “narrator” (the wonderful Edward Norton!) enhancing every single emotion, while the industrial-like soundtrack pulsating through, heightens the adrenaline of the fight scenes and underscores the characters’ (and film’s) rebellious spirit.

This is a film that gives something more every time you revisit it and I can‘t wait to watch it again on the big screen, share it with people and break the first two rules: let’s all talk about Fight Club!

Get your ticket now:

Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick, and a co-creator of the Chiswick In Film festival.

See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali

Chiswick In Film festival: Chiswick In Film festival 2023

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

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