Two decades. Long enough a time for even a vastly popular film’s legacy to die down, leave alone its popularity that is anyway measured on a relatively shorter yardstick. ‘Fight Club’ defied that, and not only does its legacy live on in 2019, a mighty two decades since it was first released, so does its popularity. Tyler Durden is still a messiah for nine to fivers toiling away in the hopes of a rebellion, and its numerous quotes that attacked the very core of what the society seemed to function on years ago (and still does) are still gospel for those followers, flooding the internet every once in a while.
We are talking about a film with literal daggers up its sleeve against everything that basically defined the modern world, from consumerism, to culture, social structure, the wants and needs, the corporate circus, the materialism that we so happily let overcome us, the high rises, the ‘success ladder’, validations, finances, debts, and virtually all terms that sound snazzy enough to run the world today. It shunned societal values, debased what the entire ‘system’ seemed to run upon, and sought to spark an internal revolution, calling out to the part of the male psyche that let ‘masculinity’ slip into suits and shirts and ties wavering around in callously planned square offices.
Chuck Palahniuk said everything in his novel that all of us have at some point wondered while meaninglessly writhing away; his writing is still relevant, even more so today, and David Fincher’s little revolution packaged as an explosively twisty film embodies all of that, with a little bit of added mischief and mayhem. The criticisms with irresponsible representations, and the provocatory nature of the film followed closely for years, until an entire generation knew ‘Fight Club’ to be the film that definitively spoke of everything wrong with the modern world, and summatively redefined the word ‘cool’. The only other film that did that three decades before even ‘Fight Club’ was ‘A Clockwork Orange’, sans the cool and twice as harrowing, and needless to say, it was met with criticism along similar lines. However, none of those blots even came close to what people had to say about the ending of the film, twisted as a wretched rubber band that would tension up all the more whence you got done with the first knot. Here, we attempt to tackle that and more.
The Ending, Explained
It would be fairly obvious to assume that you’ve had a generous dose of the cult classic by now if you are here, and seriously, if you haven’t, you’re doing yourself and the film community a great disservice. Hear not me who speaks highly of the film beyond reason, but the million others who would parry in my claim. Sermonising aside, as we proceed, we refer to Edward Norton’s deceptive first person in the film as simply ‘The Narrator’ as listed in the official credits as we attempt to decipher his troubled psyche, the idea(s) of Tyler Durden, the ending, that was explosive in the most literal sense, and the significance and themes that run deep as veins in this highly influential film.
I admit that having gone berserk when I first watched the film, and burning the disc for repeated viewings in a state of being completely and helplessly enamoured, a recent, calmer viewing of ‘Fight Club’ put me in a more contemplative state of its various narrative choices, that safe to say, broke more than a few moulds back in the day. Things that appeared colloquially weird the first time around made more sense now and for a keen eye, the various Easter-Eggs and obvious references made the revelation visible from miles away. This is not to take away the impact of the first time that obviously took your breath away, but to state it as an elaborate puzzle that you know how to solve, yet in the process, you have learnt to appreciate how intelligently the pieces fit together.