(Journey) search for identity and meaning of life.
by Adam Radnai
I am afraid I
already have to break my films first and second important rule which is “You DO
NOT talk about fight club”. Oh well, I think Tyler wouldn’t be too happy…
In this Essay I will be talking
about Fight Club (1999) Dir David Fincher
USA Adapted from the Chuck Palahniuk novel of the same name (1996) and how the 12 Stages of Journey (Vogler, 2007) fits onto the story and
I will be talking about how the main
character(s) develop throughout the story as the Journey goes on, and how he is
trying to find his identity, balance and meaning of
My theory that I will be using is
from Christopher Vogler: The Writer’s Journey:
Mythic Structure for Writers specifically the aspect of the 12 Stages of
Journey and how it fits Fight Club. Also as I will be looking how the main
character(s) develops throughout the story (Hero’s Journey) just like Vogler
based his book on Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949) from Joseph Campbell which
mainly focused on the masculine journey of mostly hero sometimes heroine which
is perfect for our film.
I think this theory fits really well Fight Club as we have such a unique, interesting
and mystic main character. This film also has a really out of the box story
which nicely follows the 12 steps although not perfectly but as Vogler said ,
“superficial use of Hero’s Journey terms, taking this metaphorical system too
literally, or arbitrarily imposing its forms on every story can be stultifying.
It should be used as a form, not a formula, a reference point and a source of
inspiration, not a dictatorial mandate” (Vogler 2007, p18).
I will go through the 12 steps and see if it actually fits, backing it with
narrative from the film, from the Narrator, the main character itself.
Loads of films using this form like Matrix (1999) Lana Wachowski (as The Wachowski Brothers), Lilly Wachowski (as The Wachowski
Brothers) USA or Star Wars (1977) Dir George Lucas USA.
We start with
our miserable main character (Hero,
Shapeshifter Vogler 2007 book one p13) that doesn’t even have a name,
not even at the end of the film where the film starts, plotting all the
characters(Tyler and Marla) and main
story line (Project Mayhem), even the
twist at the very beginning (“I know this
because Tyler knows this” Fight Club 1999) but because we don’t know yet
why are they all important, we just look through it. He is searching for a
name, an identity so I will only call him the “Narrator” as he looks at his
life from the outside almost like a flashback. He is a grey-collar worker bored with his own
life to death, which is also grey. He doesn’t really know who he is truly; he
is what the world wants him to be. If you want to get to know him, look at an
IKEA catalogue, he is actually living in one.
He hates his life living it as a bad dream, funnily he cannot sleep. The
Narrator wouldn’t even mind if his life would end, he is in constant pain of
not being truly free, not having a meaning in life. The only way for him to
escape reality is sleeping and dreaming, or at least black out for a few hours.
Call To Adventure
He needs a change in his life, the
insomnia is stronger than him, and he has been suffering for 6 months now,
without real sleep. He can’t take this life anymore. He goes to a doctor who
says he can’t die in insomnia, but he feels like a living dead already. The
Narrator asks something against pain at least, but the doctor says “You want to
see pain? Swing by First Methodist
Tuesday nights. See the guys with
testicular cancer. That’s pain.”(Fight
Of The Call
The Narrator starts his journey by going to the
meeting where he meets Bob who will be really important to the story, the only
one with a name in project mayhem and also hinting the first clue towards fight
club “We are real man” “Yes. We’re men.
Men is what we are” (Fight Club
1999). The Narrator thinks he found his solution, he now feels alive
between people who are lost all hope, because as the Narrator says „Losing all
hope is freedom”. This finally worked for him, as Narrator said „Then…
something happened. I was lost in
oblivion — dark and silent and complete.” (Fight Club 1999) He indeed
lost all hope and started crying out all of his inner pain. Everything was
happy he thought he found the elixir, he feels he fulfilled his life, it is ok
now to feel pain and cry, not trapped between his “feminine” and “masculine”
side. But not for long as Marla Singer (Threshold
Guardian, Herald(ina),Shadow Vogler 2007
book one p13) is the real
trigger who makes our hero start his journey, pushing him to start a journey. She
is as the hero says “If I did have a tumor, I would name it Marla. Marla, the
little scratch on the roof of your mouth that would heal if only you would stop
tonguing it, but you can’t.” (Fight Club
1999). Nice foreshadowing and use of word (tonguing) suggesting that Marla
will be our love interest, but because Marla reflects him or more like “Marla
— the big tourist. Her lie reflected my
lie.” (Fight Club 1999). The Hero
realised this is just lying to himself, now he sees it on Marla he can’t sleep
Back to the old boring house, job and life where we
started, But not for long as this has triggered him to meet his Mentor, Ally
and Trickster (Vogler, 2007 Book one p13)
Tyler, who takes our Narrator on a journey.
Finally our hero or Narrator meets
someone who is interesting and not boring like everybody else in life,
including him. “Tyler, you are by
far the most interesting single-serving friend I have ever met.” (Fight Club 1999) Tyler tells him to
stop this bullshit, but our hero is too comfortable in his own perfect catalogue
Airport lost his bag, everything he had
on him, and the fact that he met Tyler is the big turning point for the
character, to let it all go. Luckily Tyler gave him the confidence to do it. He
arrives to the building of his flat, to realise his whole world and life has
been destroyed (by him). There is no refusal of the call, our hero is the one
making the call, to meet his idol again. Tyler is everything he wants to be,
good looking, smart and most importantly strong. He wants to be strong, and he
knows Tyler can be THE mentor. They meet
and our hero gets their first teaching about how he should live his life. Fuck
consumerism, fuck IKEA, fuck what people think, “The things you own, they end
up owning you.” (Fight Club 1999).
Crossing The Threshold
The mentor wants something for the
teaching, to hit him as hard as he can
because “what can you know about
yourself if you have never been in a fight ” (Fight Club 1999) They
don’t want to die without scars, the punch feels good there is no way back now as Tyler said ” We’ve crossed the
threshold. You want to call it off? (Fight
Club 1999) our hero is fully committed to his real journey now.
The Narrator is finally out of his
own comfort zone, ready to face new challenges.
As our character went from being a
well situated, living in a nice flat, between nice things, with a good paying
job, to a shit whole house, no clean water, no electricity, no TV, he is kind
of turning back to an animal from an over consumerism person more like a robot,
exploring both ends. Fighting becomes the main point in life for the Narrator;
he has finally found his meaning of life, where pain is welcomed, not like
before in his life. Now he is happy to feel alive.
Fight Club has been borne Tyler
has become the Mentor of other Fight Club members and our narrator is in
progress of evolving into what he thinks is the best. Tyler.
The 8 golden rules has been stated,
RULE: You do not talk about FIGHT CLUB.
RULE: You DO NOT talk about FIGHT CLUB.
RULE: If someone says “stop” or goes limp, taps out the fight is
RULE: Only two guys to a fight.
RULE: One fight at a time.
RULE: No shirts, no shoes.
RULE: Fights will go on as long as they have to.
RULE: If this is your first night at FIGHT CLUB, you HAVE to fight.
Future members of Project Mayhem
have been found. New rules of life.
Approach To The Inmost Cave
Fight Club is getting famous and
more famous day by day, it is spreading across cities and Tyler is turning into
a God amongst these people, and our Narrator is committed to the war against society.
They are all ready now, they are ready to go out to the public and start
destroying the corporations and everybody who is against fight club. Our hero
is sent out, to destroy what is left from his previous life, his job. Of course
he is using pure physical strength to do it with a turn; he doesn’t actually
hit anybody like Tyler wanted, but himself, showing to his old world (his boss)
how he changed from the quiet and well mannered work robot into this animal,
beast. The Hero is fully transformed
into this masculine alpha male beast he wanted, and parallel to this Project
Mayhem has been borne.
Everything was fun until our hero
realized what is actually at stake. Bob’s death made him think, that he wanted
an identity and wanted a meaning in life, but not with a cost like this. He has
realised that both end of the spectrum are bad and we need to find a balance in
our life, we should live together with a name with an identity, and not pushing
each other into living life by rules, and everybody who doesn’t live like it
should be destroyed.
He tries to stop Tyler and Project
Mayhem, but Tyler has disappeared, so the hero is now set to stop Project Mayhem
so Tyler will be stopped too.
Also our hero finally realised
that it wasn’t Tyler who loved Marla but him, and she is her other half, she is
his weakness, as he never loved or liked anyone in his life. So before he stops
everything he saves Marla. At least he thinks he had saved her. Tyler knows
because I know it.
As you can see the 12 Stages Of
Journey nicely fits onto the story and the archetypes are nicely fallen on the
characters, but what makes this story, is its uniqueness, you do not have to strictly
follow the stages (Film starts at the end),
you can confuse the viewer (why is the
hero has a gun in his mouth), set up anything you want (Who is Marla? Why is she the reason for all
of this?), rub things into the viewers faces and make them a little bit
lost (Who is Tyler, what is Project Mayhem, and If I know this, why does Tyler
know?), but they will find the meaning at the end like our hero.
David Fincher got what Christopher Vogler said to use this as a
form not a formula, dare to make something new, dare to make the rules, as
exceptions make the rule.