At the risk of breaking the first two rules of Fight club, in this scene analysis I will be discussing a scene from Fight Club (David Fincher 1999). Using mise en scene I will be analyzing the particular scene at about minute 93 when Tyler (Brad Pitt), Jack (Edward Norton) and two others from the fight club, get into a car together. Jack climbs into the passenger’s seat and Tyler drives. Tyler and Jack begin and have an argument that reaffirms a main theme: letting go of control. Throughout this entire movie, Jack watches the world move around him. He feels he is unable to control anything around him, though he constantly tries.
The drive and ensuing crash in this scene parallels this theme. Mise en scene includes four main parts which then have sub parts. The four main parts are setting, the human figure, lighting, and composition. However, I will only be using the first three. First is the setting. This scene takes place in a car driving on a highway at night and in the rain. Setting in most cases is used to set the tone or mood of a scene and for this one it sets a dreary tone. The car is almost full and although they do have room to move they are trapped inside a small area.
This is showing how Jack is stuck in his small way of thinking. With Tyler driving, Jack no longer has control and at the end of the scene, through a crash, is helped out of the car and his way of thinking by Tyler. The car is also a tool that is for forward progression. In this scene, while Tyler and Jack are in the car, Jack is able to move forward by letting go of control. Setting alone however, is not enough. The second element is the human figure. The human figure contains many different sub parts such as, actors, casting, acting style, figure placement and movement, costumes, props and makeup.
The figure placement is very key in this scene. It shows Tyler as the driver and Jack as the passenger. By this single act, the director is slowly relinquishing Jack’s control and placing it in the hands of Tyler. Jack soon begins to realize his life is no longer in his hands when Tyler starts to drive into on coming traffic. When Jack tries to grab the steering wheel, Tyler stops him, saying that hitting bottom is not a weekend retreat and he needs to let go of control. When Jack finally lets go everything starts to change. Props though lightly used in the scene are also a key component.
The vehicle they were in served as the trap in which Jack is stuck. Also they have the occasional vehicles on the road that Tyler drove towards and that swerved out of the way. At each pass of the cars Tyler drove at, an important part of the story and overall theme was discussed. This fact is shown during the passing of the semi-truck when Jack admits that he would not be happy with any part of his life if he were to die at that point. Finally, the broken down car on the side of the road that after Jack conceded his control they ended up hitting.
This is an interesting part of the scene. When Jack finally gives up his control it seems as if he has overcome the obstacle of that scene and his own personal obstacle. His reward for letting go of his control however is a car crash. This scene seems to fight the natural instincts of a movie goer. Then again what does one expect when letting go of the steering wheel in a moving vehicle. Makeup is also a key part of props. Both men show signs of being battered and beaten. At one point you gain a glimpse of Jack’s hands which are bloody, bruised and one sports an acid burn.
These wounds show the transformations that the men have to make in the fight club. This goes along with what Tyler said, “Hitting bottom is not a weekend resort… ” It isn’t going to be easy, it will probably hurt but you will be better off for it. The acting style of both Pitt and Norton was impersonation, meaning the both disappeared in their roles of “Tyler” and “Jack”. This is a common style of acting and helps the viewer understand the emotions and make a link to the characters. Also, Pitt who had his tooth purposely chipped for the movie (http://www. w. com/ew/article/0,,83604,00. html), delved into technical acting which refers to master of external details. Costumes also have a small but significant role in this scene. At one point Tyler informs Jack that he, along with everyone else, is not special. This is shown through the dress of the characters. The two Project Mayhem members sitting in the back seat are dressed identical in plain black clothes and Jack is dressed in black and white. Only Tyler is dressed in color which shows he is special and set apart from the rest of the group.
Even though he is telling Jack to give up control, he remains in control over Jack, refusing to let go of him. Lighting during this scene has a subtle effect that could be easily missed. During the argument the director uses hard side lighting. This then puts half of Jack’s face and half of Tyler’s face in shadow. This shows the split nature and duality of their relationship. Occasionally there are flashes of their whole face, but this is from the lights they happen to be passing while driving, for most of the time they are both in shadow. Having this hard light also shows the imperfections in both Tyler’s and Jack’s faces.
These imperfections caused by fights and naturally occurring allow the viewer to see the flaws each character possesses. The lighting also sets the tone for the scene. It is dark with lights flashing by in the background. This, paired with the heavy rain, sets a dark and gloomy feeling. The theme of letting go of control appears all throughout this scene and the whole movie. Eventually however, when Jack does let go, he gives way to the full power and wrath of Tyler, whom he does not fully understand. This opens up a new set of problems for Jack that he has to deal with before he can actually let go and become himself once again.