Guest Author - Barbara Rice DeShong, PhD.
A mysterious person is someone who is not who you think they are. A really mysterious person is someone who is not who “he” thinks he is. And, I’m not talking “know yourself” in psychobabble terms. I’m saying a really mysterious person is someone who looks in the mirror and sees someone else.
Imagine Edward Norton and Brad Pitt in the same package. In “Fight Club” (1999) you get them both in the most incredible, but completely possible, twisted individual. “Fight Club” was written by Chuck Palahniuk whose novels force readers to challenge everything they accept about what it is to be human. Palahniuk doesn’t write science fiction or fantasy, he opens the world of the mind; he acquaints us with what’s it’s like to be unbalanced--from the inside out. Palahniuk does this by standing you, the reader who takes the dare, in the shoes of the deranged character so deftly that we see the world as the character does. This is truly scary.
“Fight Club” opens with (Edward Norton), whose name is not given in the movie, as a risk analysis expert for a major auto company. Once the company learns of a defective feature in a model on the market—a product flaw causing crashes and deaths—it’s Norton’s job to project the cost of wrongful death lawsuits over the years and compare that figure to the cost of a product recall. The company then goes with whichever alternative is cheaper, with no regard for the people projected to die in future preventable car crashes. Norton’s disenchantment with his awful job along with both insomnia and increasing narcolepsy (falling asleep without warning) are building to an unbearable point.
While on a flight returning from one of his projects, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) is sitting next to Norton. Durden introduces himself and they discover mutual feelings of discouragement with the state of society. Norton returns to his home city to find that his condo has burned. With no place to stay, he pulls out Durden’s card, calls, and asks to be a temporary roommate. Durden agrees to the arrangement and the two meet in a bar. They end up in a physical battle which leaves them both refreshed and more in touch with their manhood and their sense of aliveness. Norton carries the experience a step further initiating a man’s organization devoted to beating each other up, the Fight Club. The Club grows to dozens of members over many cities. Norton often shows up at his job with his eyes swollen shut and his lips scabbed from Fight Club.
Norton attends many 12-step groups intended for people coping with various diseases--just to feel connected with other people. There he meets Marla Singer (Helen Bonham Carter), also slumming the 12 step groups for comfort. The troubled Norton invites Singer to where he is living with Durden and to his great dismay she chooses the cocky Durden to be her lover.
“Fight Club” gives us a big ending with buildings blowing up, but the horror of the truth about Norton is made clear in two small scenes just before the last. The first is when Norton has been reprimanded by his boss who leaves Norton waiting alone in his office. Norton reacts to his emotions by speaking out as if Durden is in the room, then begins hitting himself in the face. Aha. The truth is dawning. Then in a final scene with Marla Singer, we realize that Norton and Durden have never all been in the same room at the same time. Either Singer is interacting with the troubled Norton or the sexy Durden. And then you know, in kick-in-the gut fashion, that there was no Fight Club. There was no Durden. There was only Norton losing his mind and taking you with him.