Narrative Comparison of a Novel and the Film adaptation
NARRATIVE COMPARISON OF A NOVEL AND THE FILM ADAPTATION 1
NarrativeComparison of a Novel and the Film adaptation
NarrativeComparison of a Novel and the Film Adaptation
In 1999, directorDavid Fincher and screenwriter Jim Uhls gave us the film adaptationof Fight Club, the first novel by Chuk Palahniuk. The film itself wasfull of themes, meanings, and several possible interpretations thusdemanding a lot from its audience who had to watch it numerous times.Despite the quality of the film adaptation, it has generated apassionate love or hate reaction from its audience. Ultimately, onlythe people who found the movie compelling will try to unravel thelayers of meaning and hidden clues through watching it repeatedly.Unfortunately, the film suffered from bad advertising campaigns thathighlighted the fighting aspect while ignoring the deeper meaningsthus labeling it a cult movie (Ramey,2014). On the other hand, the novel is filled with a truthfulurban philosophy that makes its readers question themselves. Theadaptation further enhances the book to a remarkable piece ofentertainment and art (Heffernan,2016). David Fincher and Jim Uhls ensured each line andimagery in the film was important and had a purpose beyond the wordsor pictures themselves (Lisk,2014).
Fight Club is aboutan unnamed young man who suffers from insomnia and desolation leadingto him bringing together an army of violent fellow men in similarotiose life situations with the assistance of Tyler Durden. Tyler isa soap salesman the young man had become friends with and later onhis follower. The fight clubs are a place where these recruited mencame to fight each other with their bare fists while adhering to therules set by Tyler Durden. Through the conception of the fight clubs,they bring together more men to their cause and philosophy of life.The fight clubs develop into task forces that commit delusionalcrimes that lead to “Project Mayhem” which is a complicatedsystem that wants to reverse modern civilization several hundredyears back by destroying the financial backbone of America. The youngman and Tyler Durden share a bond similar to one’s childhood bestfriend which dies as one grows up. Two-thirds into the book, chapter21, the reader realizes that Tyler Durden is not real but is aninvented personality that exists in the protagonist’s imagination.Both the book and the film treat its audience and readers as simpleminded people. The character Tyler Durden is revealed as an alternatepersona of the main character in a hurtfully blunt manner.
As is common inHollywood movies, there must be a redeeming quality in theprotagonist that helps the audience sympathize and identify withhim/her. Jim Uhls incorporates this tradition by limiting the amountof violence committed by the members of “Projected Mayhem”opposite what is depicted in the novel. While in the book, the taskforce openly and volitionally commits murder, the film makes thegroup appear to have limits of what is acceptable. In the book, TylerDurden tells the men that they are going to have to kill someonewhile in the film, the unknown young man asks his alter ego when thefight club became about murder. Although, the protagonist later cameto realize that Tyler Durden had taken measures to avoid anyaccidental deaths. Fans of the book might find this modificationirritating, but it effectively convinces the audience that theprotagonist is not ready to commit murder thus making the audienceroot for him. Additionally, the protagonist tries to the right thewrongs committed by his alter ego. In the book, the protagonistremains weak and uncontrollable. Therefore, although the film andbook end with the protagonist shooting himself, the meaning of theact differs. In the novel, he shoots himself because he is weak andchooses suicide rather than face the consequences of his crime. Whilein the film, he chooses suicide since it is the only way to get ridof Tyler Durden. In both cases, he survives the suicide attempt, butin the book, he ends up in a mental asylum without any certainty thatTyler Durden is indeed gone while in the film he lives to see thebombs “Project Mayhem” built to destroy the buildings around himand Tyler Durden completely gone.
Jim Uhls’ task ofadapting the novel also included reducing the cast since a book cangive meaning to very many characters but a film had to be precise andfocused on a few prototypal characters to ensure the audience doesnot lose the plot of the story. Consequently, although the novel hadthree main characters and three supporting characters, Jim Uhls makesalterations of the character setup. He eliminates a mechanic whotakes the protagonist on the car ride that almost caused an accidentand gives that role to Tyler Durden. This change results in aheightened impact of the scene and the relationship between TylerDurden and the protagonist. Furthermore, Jim Uhls makes Tyler Durdencause the accident which results in the film’s most infectiousline: “We just had a near-life experience!”
The novel uses thepronoun “you” to force us to think about the philosophy of thecharacter (Lisk, 2014). Inresponse Jim Uhls uses a voice over and additionally makes TylerDurden speak directly to the audience when he held a gun to aconvenient store clerk to force him to go back to the university andrealize his dream of becoming a veterinarian. In this scene, TylerDurden looks directly at the camera and tells us that our jobs, thesum of money we have in the bank, what we have in our wallets, andthe cars we drive do not define us. On the other hand, David Fincherutilizes digital CGI effects to garble the image and make the holesin the celluloid film visible thus imposing the message that it is anactor on the screen talking to the audience. This technique forcesthe audience to engage and think about what they are watching orbeing told rather than just listening to the story. This scenerepresents one of the most potent moments in the film.
In the film, TylerDurden splices an image of a penis into a family film during hisnight job as a movie projectionist. This technique serves as a comiccharacter development and leads to the incorporation of images ofTyler Durden in various scenes before he makes his formal appearance.Tyler Durden enters the screen in brief flashes strengthening theidea of him being a part of the protagonist’s personality. Thisvisual effect is not found in the book, but it serves its rolefaultlessly in the film. The use of the medium adapted to its maximumpoint to tell a story is a fantastic way of film adaptations (Lisk,2014).
Jim Uhlssubstantially minimizes the role of Marla Singer, the femalesupporting character and the love interest of both Tyler Durden andthe protagonist. This is to help focus the plot on the moreinteresting and crucial relationship in the story. She slowly buildsan emotional relationship to the main character while concurrentlyhaving sex with Tyler Durden. In the novel, she is not aware thatTyler Durden and the protagonist are two different personalities.Additionally, the protagonist tells her about the schizophrenic alterego nature of Tyler Durden as soon as he is aware of it himself uponwhich she tries to assist him in defeating his inner scourge. In thefilm, instead of asking for her help he sensibly sends her out oftown and consequently out of his reach making it obvious thatalthough he would like to be closer to her, he will not engage due tothe moral principles he has set for himself.
In conclusion, allthe choices made in the course of adapting the novel into filmenhance the story’s impingement and originality making Fight Clubone of the most striking and severely polarizing films. It is rarethat movie adaptations result in such a beautiful product. The filmdelivers on several themes including the shortcomings of consumerismand capitalism, and male friendship and bonding. David Fincher andJim Uhls have provided a significant and in-depth analysis of themale psyche. Despite the average quality of the book, the filmadaptation is a success and shows that art can be entertaining.
Heffernan, T. (2016). When theMovie Is Better Than the Book: Fight Club, Consumption, and VitalSigns. Framework:The Journal of Cinema and Media, 57(2),91-103.
Lisk, C. (2014). It`s called aChangeover the movie goes on: Why David Fincher`s adaptation ofFight Club better executes the original intentions of Palahniuk`snovel.
Ramey, M. (2014). StudyingFight Club. ColumbiaUniversity Press.
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