Since its release in 1999, Fight Club has both shocked and awed audiences around the world. While the initial commercial success of the book and box office results of the film were underwhelming, Fight Club grew into and remained one of the most beloved and controversial films of the past 20 years, as well as one of the most misunderstood.
This is because, despite the film's popularity and endless rewatchability, many fans still argue about the core message. It goes further than that. There's no denying that Fight Club is a complex movie, but, with all the twists and turns distracting viewers, even some of the basic plot points are overlooked.
Aside from his visual trademarks, Fincher is known for weaving intricate narratives into his films. To complicate things even more, the director is fond of the unreliable narrator, a trick that may have never been used more effectively than in Fight Club. When Fincher's directing style was combined with the postmodernist writings of author Chuck Palahniuk in Fight Club, the result was frustrating for many, to put it mildly.
As we approach the 20th anniversary of this classic film, interest is expected to renew. Is it possible that, after 19 years, there are still new things to learn about Fight Club? The answer is a resounding YES! So, let's go about filling in some of those blanks.
Here are 15 Mind-Blowing Things You Didn't Know About Fight Club.
15 The Inspiration
Chuck Palahniuk's stories are often violent and grotesque, but, when he first penned Fight Club, little was known about the author. According to Palahniuk, the story's was roughly inspired by an experience he had while camping. During the trip, a nearby group was partying late and loudly. When Palahniuk tried to get them to "shut up," he was beaten soundly.
But the true inspiration for Fight Club came when he returned to work. Despite being battered and bruised, Palahniuk said that "People didn't ask me what had happened. I think they were afraid of the answer. I realised that if you looked bad enough, people would not want to know what you did in your spare time. They don't want to know the bad things about you. And the key was to look so bad that no one would ever, ever ask. And that was the idea behind Fight Club."
14 Visual Power Shift
Throughout the film, Edward Norton's character, the Narrator, fights Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) for control over his own body, even if he doesn't realize it until the end. To help visually create this struggle for fans, Norton and Pitt committed to opposing workout regimes.
According to an interview with the Yale Herald, Norton said that the goal was for him to look progressively weaker while Pitt became and looked stronger. As Norton explained, "Brad made the decision to go the opposite way because Tyler is the way my character sees himself. Brad got progressively bigger throughout the movie, he bulked up and got huge and tan and beautiful while I became Gollum." Unfortunately, this sharp visual metaphor is missed by many fans because Pitt is so ridiculously handsome that they expect most actors to look like Smeagol next to him.
13 How Much Time Has Passed
When the Narrator goes to sleep, he becomes Durden. This is the basic division between the characters. As Durden becomes more powerful, so to speak, he takes over for longer stretches, evidenced by the sheer number of things he accomplishes. But there is little known about how much time takes place, if only because there is no measuring stick.
That is until the car accident. When the Narrator is pulled from the wreckage, he has a bloody gash on his head. In the next shot, he is in bed, the wound healing but still visible. The film then creates the illusion that a single night has passed. The morning comes, the Narrator awakes, and he is met with a flurry of activity in the house.
How did this happen so quickly? Well, it wasn't quick. Look at the Narrator's head. The cut is gone. At least two weeks has passed.
12 The Title Sequence
Originally, the opening sequence of Fight Club was to be only the sound of a gun cocking, which then opened to Durden holding a gun in the Narrator's mouth. But Fincher paid more than $750,000 to create a different title sequence. This new piece, the one that stuck, begins in a CGI-mapped brain, specifically in the Narrator's fear/panic receptors. The camera then works outward until we see the gun.
Why was this so important?
At one point in the film, the Narrator says, "No fear. No distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide." This is one of the most important concepts in Fight Club. Neither Palahniuk or Fincher are saying to ignore fear. After all, fear is a biological response. The point is to acknowledge fear, use it, and move beyond it. Everything in Fight Club begins with and is a result of fear.
11 Recurring Characters
How the guys so effectively recruits new members is one of the more shadowy aspects of Fight Club. Since most recruitment happens when Durden is in control, we rarely see it take place. Still, new recruits and Space Monkeys are always appearing. Often, recruiting members is as simple as being seen with injuries, making others interested in what this person does in their free time.
But the film has a neat and subtle way of showing how effective the recruitment methods are. Though you may not have recognized it, several of the men that the Narrator and Durden encounter on the streets show up at Fight Club later on. The long-haired man from the bus? In the next scene, he's seen fighting at Fight Club. The priest who was sprayed with water? He, too, shows up at Fight Club later with his cross visible around his neck.
10 Switching Seats
Before the Narrator met Durden, he was sitting next to a middle-aged woman, describing his work. He then fantasized about a mid-air collision. When he woke, Durden was sitting next to him. This switch is important for several reasons, many of which are laid out in great detail over at Jack Durden.
The bottom line is that the switch from female to male symbolizes and triggers one of the film's primary conversations, the emasculation of men. Prior to meeting the hyper-masculine Durden, the Narrator was consumed by the effeminate Marla Singer.
After Tyler takes this woman's place, the Narrator looks over at an emergency exit sign. Interestingly, the sign depicts a long-haired woman in a long-sleeved shirt opening the emergency exit. But, in the third and final panel, the woman has changed. The new person, possibly a male, has short hair and is wearing a t-shirt.
9 The Luggage Swap
Continuing with the theme of change, a similar shift between woman and man or, more specifically, between Marla and Tyler takes place after the flight. When the narrator goes to pick up his luggage, he learns it was confiscated because it was vibrating. The security guard lets him know that it's what you might guess it is.
Despite the Narrator's insistence that it cannot be, this is almost certainly true. Throughout the film, the same 'toy' is visible twice. Both times, it is the property of Marla. So, why is this important? Because it connects the Narrator's pre-flight luggage (or baggage) to Marla. After he meets Durden, however, the effeminate luggage is gone. Oh, and look what's left behind. The only piece of luggage left on the carousel is a crudely packed cardboard box, almost certainly the product of Tyler Durden.
8 Selling Jeans
For the final piece of exploration into the mysterious case of Marla Singer, take a look at the early scene at the laundromat. In case you forgot, this scene takes place right before he meets Durden on the plane. The Narrator follows Marla into the laundromat to negotiate which support groups each of them should attend. Pay attention to what happens next.
Marla opens the dryers that are not-so-subtly branded "Speed Queen." From inside, she removes several pairs of blue jeans, the iconic symbol for masculinity. And what does she do with these jeans? She sells them off at a thrift store. Now, it doesn't seem to matter that these are not the Narrator's jeans or Marla's. They are men's jeans and Marla has taken ownership of them. She even grabs him by the junk when the Narrator confronts her about it. This is a woman in control.
7 Treating Insomnia
In many ways, insomnia is its own character in Fight Club. Tyler Durden lives because of the Narrator's sleepless nights. Insomnia found its way into the story because Chuck Palahniuk, the author, suffers from the sleep condition. He even incorporated many of the methods used to combat insomnia into the story, putting them right in front of us.
According to Palahniuk, fighting and losing is a sleep-enhancer, saying, "studies show that after a boxer or wrestler loses a match, his testosterone levels drop drastically. His metabolism slows. All these changes, it's speculated, function to prevent him from entering a new fight before he's physically recovered."
The ice caves, the place where the Narrator finds his power animal, is a visualization tactic used to create a sleep-inducing chill in the body. Finally, Durden's iconic blue-blocker shades are commonly used by insomniacs to protect melatonin production, which helps control sleep cycles.
6 Subtle Hints About Imaginary Friends
Rewatching Fight Club to look for signs that Durden and the Narrator were connected is the greatest experience you can have with the film. While not every scene adheres to the illusion, there are several subtle hints to pick up on. By this point, most of the little hints have been pulled apart at length, but there are a few that many fans still miss.
Take the scene in which the Narrator and Durden are on the bus, for instance. A long-haired man walks in, passing by the two characters. After pushing through Durden without acknowledging him, he excuses himself to pass the Narrator. Or the car accident in which Durden was driving but then pulls the Narrator out of the wreckage from the driver's seat. Or, maybe best of all, when Durden's punched in the stomach by the tavern owner and the Narrator leans forward as if feeling the blow.
5 Why Tyler Looks Familiar
Admittedly, this is topic has been addressed just about everywhere. Still, it can't hurt to look at all the times the Narrator saw Tyler Durden before they met. You'll remember that Durden's image flashed on the screen a few times before the Narrator was introduced to him on the flight. In total, there were six glimpses of Durden, four of which Fincher calls "subliminal Brads."
The first time Durden is seen is when the Narrator is at work struggling to stay awake at the photocopier. The next is at the doctor's, which is then followed by another flash at the first support group. The final flash is seen when the Narrator watches Marla in an alleyway. The next time Durden is seen is in a hotel welcome video. He's at the far right of the screen. Finally, Durden passes in the opposite direction of the Narrator while at the airport.
4 Meat Loaf Mistakes
The character of Robert Paulson is played by legendary rocker Meat Loaf. For the role, Meat Loaf donned a fat suit that was filled with birdseed to give it the most realistic appearance. While realistic, the 100-lb suit caused quite a bit of filming issues for Meat Loaf, as revealed in the behind-the-scenes footage.
During his fight scenes, for example, Meat Loaf needed an oxygen tank between takes to help him recover. In fact, this tank is visible in the background of one of the shots, making it unclear if it was a mistake or intentional. One shot that was not intentional, however, was when Meat Loaf's pants fell down. That's right. In the scene where the gang runs away after threatening the man in the bathroom, Meat Loaf's pants fall down to his ankles.
3 Paper Street
We first see the words "Paper Street" when Durden gives the Narrator his card for Paper Street Soap Co. This is where the Narrator gets Durden's number to call him and set the film's events in motion. Later, we see the street and the street sign for Paper Street. If we were mapmakers, there's a good chance we would have clued in to the mystery at hand. If we understood the terminology of map publishers, maybe we wouldn't have been tricked.
You see, paper streets are streets that exist on maps but not the real world. They are most often used by map publishers as copyright traps. If another map includes this paper or trap street, the publisher would know they were borrowed from. This was a big clue right under our noses.
2 Bonham Carter's Bronchitis
In the anti-consumerist Fight Club, there are plenty of consumer pressures placed throughout. Look at the "Starbucks coffee in every shot" piece of trivia. This is Fincher having fun with the audience. Smoking fits this bill too. There is smoke everywhere in Fight Club. Not just cigarettes either, but "No Smoking" signs and ashtrays too. These all create the same pressures.
But, for Helena Bonham Carter, the heavy inclusion of smoking took its toll. “At the end of the shoot I gave Finch an x-ray of my lungs,” she said in an interview. “I had to have an x-ray because I got bronchitis – surprise, surprise – during the six months of filming. And Fincher does so many takes and lots of smoke shots… He got obsessed with the smoke. It had to float in a particular way. So I was just always sitting there in a cemetery of cigarette butts.”
1 Why Support Groups?
Near the beginning of the film, the Narrator reveals to Marla why he attends support groups. He explains, "when people think you're dying, they really really listen to you…" Marla finishes this off, adding "instead of just waiting for their turn to speak." Aside from uncovering the character's motivations, this line is powerful for a few different reasons. Most importantly, it comes back into play at the end of the film.
In the film's final few minutes, the Narrator, with a gun under his chin, says, "Tyler, I want you to really listen to me." To this, a now-sombre Durden listens attentively and quietly. This sudden change in Durden's listening abilities, as Redditor RuinedEye pieced together on r/moviedetails, is likely because the Narrator is about to take himself out. In other words, Durden is listening because he believes the Narrator is dying.
Which of these surprised you most? Let us know!