In this essay I will be explaining how the mise-en-scene functions to generate meaning in ‘Fight Club with the aid of the first 10 shots using analytical evidence from a shot breakdown. film that explores the idea of an underground revolution which results in a large number of the world participating in a comedic yet dark way.
The storyline follows Edward Norton’s character who creates an imaginary friend in the image of how he would like to be and goes on to create an underground fight club, which eventually turns into an underground terrorist group who see themselves as revolutionaries doing the world a favour by destroying the world credit agencies and banks. The first ten shots which I have analysed are the introduction shots which start the film at the end of the story. This means the viewer see’s and hears part of the ending but does not know how the situation got to where it is, and where it is going therefore enticing to continue watching.
The mise-en-scene in these shots is there to convey the feel for the film, being dark with the lighter mood in parts, which it does well through use of all aspects of what’s on the screen. ‘Cinematic figures openly require the work of interpretation to complete them. Interpretation is integral to the specific structure of discourse they constitute, a structure that is by definition complex in that it involves both signification and significance, both semiotic mechanism and referential thrust.
‘ (Dudley, 1984; 172) This is true for any film, when looking at the beginning of ‘Fight Club’, it is easy to see that what is being shown is a situation that has become so large that it will affect the world and everyone on it. Besides the rooted conflict of how stable Norton’s character is, this is where the dark side of this film comes from, however at the same time; it is done in a way that has little hints that add humour and a lighter mood.
A perfect example of one of the more comedic moments is later in the film, when both Pitt and Norton are having a discussion with each other whilst hitting cars with baseball bats as if it’s a daily activity, or another scene in which a priest is aggravated to a point where he starts to fight and soon regrets it and runs away. The different aspects of mise-en-scene bring different meanings to a scene or particular shot through the variety of different ways each aspect can be used.
Using the ninth shot from the breakdown of the introduction scene which is a still shot of both characters, as an example; the composition of the shot plays a large part defining Norton as the main character in the film due to sitting in the middle of the screen. In comparison Pitt, who is off centre and deeper in the shot appears less dominant in terms of his character’s role in the entirety of the film. This shot can also been seen as an establishing shot giving a better idea of where the two characters are as it is the first time the location is revealed from a further distance showing more of the surroundings.
The room they are both in is obviously quite high up in the building which can be seen by the buildings outside, it’s also an empty room with nothing but the chair that Norton is sitting in and a few lights. This emptiness can connote a number of things but from what is seen so far in the scene, it would seem that it is to emphasise the two characters relationship with each other, possibly bringing them together as they are the only two characters that have been shown so far. Despite Norton’s character being the main protagonist, he is lacking control of what is happening in the scene which can be seen through performance.
Pitt’s Character is the one holding the gun and standing up which is significant because it shows him as higher than Norton who is sitting down starring at Pitt over his shoulder as if to find out what is happening, almost as if he does not know what to do with himself and looking to Pitt for help. A narrative tool used to help further the plot throughout the entire film is Norton’s narration which often lets the viewer know how he feels or what he is thinking, which is greatly used to emphasise the unstable state of Norton’s characters mind but also used to further the plot.