Nov 30, 2009

Film Adaptations - Fight Club

Car recalls always remind me of Fight Club, in which Jack outlines the basic formula for issuing a recall:

"You take the number of vehicles in the field (A) and multiply it by the probable rate of failure (B), multiply the result by the average out-of-court settlement (C). A times B times C equals X. If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one."

This is the reduction of death and suffering to a dollar equation. By a corporation. It is a basic theme, the dehumanizing effects of Corporate America, of the book Fight Club (by Chuck Palahniuk - tough name to spell from memory) and the excellent film adapation by Jim Uhls (screenwriter) and David Fincher (director). I am a big fan of Fincher, who combines the medium, the message and a story so very well.

The Toyota Recall reminded me not only of the Fight Club equation but the gruesome car inspection scene where a group is inspecting a fire-gutted car, the result of a differential locking up at 60 mph. One of the technicians says,"The father must've been obese. See how the fat burned into the driver's seat, mixed with the dye of his shirt? Kind like modern art."

Here's a similar bit from the Toyota story:

"On August 28, near San Diego, an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer couldn't stop the car. His wife called 911. There was a call that lasted less than a minute. They said they were going 120 miles an hour. They started to pray. The car went off an embankment, burst into flames, and four people were killed, including a young child."

If you want a more technical view of how Corporate America chips away at our souls, check out Joel Bakan's The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power.

But Fight Club explores the subject extremely well, along with various other subjects, including men's reactions (or lack of) to feminism, the curious phenomenon of Corporate orphans (specifically men who grow up with an absent father), and the early search for meaning.

Fincher (along with The Dust Brothers) captures the rhythm of corporate travel madness. "You wake up at O'Hare." At SeaTac. "Pacific, Mountain, Central. You lose an hour, you gain an hour. This is your life, and it's ending one minute at a time." Or the Tom Waits Go'in Out West intro to the first organized fight. There is the brilliant consumerism-in-us-all Ikea scene. "What kind of dining room set *defines* me as a person?"

It is all so brilliantly done. Fight Club is one of my favorite films.