Fight Club

Fight Club ★★★★★

”Suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds meaning.”Viktor Frankl, Mans Search for Meaning

What can you say about this movie that hasn’t already been said? It’s arguably the most discussed, dissected, and derided movie of the last half century. You can love it, you can hate it, you can even live your life by it, but the one thing you cant do is ignore it.

For me this is one of the great modern existential movies—unfortunately it’s also the most obnoxious. It’s unpleasantness is due to its lack of subtlety, which is also part of its appeal.

The ornateness of Fight Club has allowed it to reach an entire generation of people, specifically young males trapped in a state of ennui (I am Ian’s embarrassment for using the word ennui in a sentence).

There’s no right way of watching or interpreting movies, but some ways are more helpful than others. Ive never found it useful to take a literal approach when watching movies. Unfortunately some fans and detractors of Fight Club have adopted a literal approach to interpreting the film which has complicated its legacy.

Fight Club is more than just a movie about guys beating the snot out of one another. At the risk of sounding redundant or condescending, the fighting is just a metaphor for the role of pain and suffering in constructing meaning and a sense of self.

The Narrator is trapped in a prison of meaninglessness that’s fuelled by monotony, consumerism, and ultimately shame. He cant tolerate who he is, so he creates an apparition of glorious purpose in the form of Tyler Durden, a pseudo-philosopher warrior who pushes The Narrator literally and metaphorically to find meaning in his life.

There are elements of Sartres maxim “existence precedes essence“ in Tylers philosophy. We aren’t born who we are, we become it over time and through our experiences. It’s through engagement with painful experiences in particular that our greatest self definition takes place: “How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?

Tylers philosophy isn’t flawless however. He sees self-improvement as masturbatory, and self-destruction as the one true path to a meaningful existence. But as the great Viktor Frankl noted, meaning is supposed to reduce suffering, not create it.

By the end of the movie The Narrator realises how Tylers philosophy has been twisted for nefarious purposes, and he is able to purge Durden from his life. But how will The Narrator be changed by his experiences, if at all. We are left to wonder about The Narrators fate as we watch the world fall down around him.

As I’ve said previously: you can love it, you can hate, you can even live your life by it, but the one thing you can’t do is ignore. I think that’s the 9th rule of Fight Club.

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