Movies and TV
The Downward Spiral of Fight Club

Kevin Mooseles | 2 Oct 2014 09:00
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Trent Reznor and David Fincher have collaborated on a lot of films, but oddly Fight Club wasn't one of them.

Gone Girl is now the third David Fincher film in a row that is both based on a book and scored by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. Fincher and Reznor first made contact in 1997, when the filmmaker decided to create an elaborate opening credit sequence to his thriller Se7en set to a remix of Reznor's mid-90s hit "Closer." From that moment it seemed clear that Fincher and Reznor had some common ground in their unique expressions of art -- and since they've also collaborated on movies The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and this week's Gone Girl.

In the dynamic that exists between them now, Reznor's role is to create music to accompany and support Fincher's vision. But what if things were the other way around -- with Fincher directing a film based on one of Reznor's albums?

As it turns out, this has already happened... in a way. In 1999, Fincher released Fight Club, based on the Chuck Palahnuik novel of the same name -- which was inspired directly by the NIN album "The Downward Spiral." Palahnuik says that Fight Club was "...written to a soundtrack of The Downward Spiral and Pablo Honey" and while many bits and pieces of the book were taken from the author's life, the framework of the story and the characters of Jack, Tyler, and Marla are lifted directly from the template of The Downward Spiral.

For those of you unfamiliar with either Fight Club or The Downward Spiral, I'd recommend seeing the movie and at least reading through the lyrics before proceeding. In case you haven't noticed, we are about to explore new depths of fan theorization, and will reveal spoilers within spoilers until Yo Dawg levels are reached. On top of spoilers, it should come to no surprise to fans of either Fight Club or Nine Inch Nails that many of the videos and lyrics linked here are a long way from safe for work, so be warned.

Still, if we keep our wits about us and proceed carefully one track at a time, there's a good chance that we'll make it through in one piece.

Track 1: Mr. Self-Destruct

The film opens with a credit sequence that starts inside the brain of Jack (Edward Norton), and slowly pans out to reveal a gun in Jack's mouth held by Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), who is Jack's alter ego. Jack quickly rehashes a scene of violence and terrorism about to unfold, which was the work of Durden, and then flashes back (twice) to the proper beginning of the story. The name of the song: "Mr. Self-Destruct" is a title that aptly fits the true nature of Jack and Tyler's relationship -- as well as the core of Tyler's philosophy.

The album opens with the sound of someone being beaten (sampled from the George Lucas film THX-1138) followed by the words, "I am the voice inside your head (and I control you)" -- which is to say both Fight Club and the song start inside the head of the main character. The verse continues with "I am the lover in your bed (and I control you). I am the sex that you deny, (and I control you). I am the hate you try to hide, (and I control you)." The chorus of the song is "I take you where you want to go. I give you all you need to know. I drag you down, I use you up: Mr. Self-Destruct."

Compare these lines to the scene where Jack realizes that Tyler Durden is a voice inside his head, and Tyler explains his purpose by saying "All the ways you wish you could be, that's me: I look like you want to look, I fuck like you want to fuck, I am smart, capable, and most importantly I am free in all the ways that you are not." Neither the song nor the opening sequence of the film properly start the story, but rather jump in to the middle of the chaos, causing the audience to brace for what is to unfold. The story of The Downward Spiral really begins on track 2.

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