Most of the time, I don’t really notice music in the movies. Since awful pop music tends to be what is featured in movies to drive soundtrack sales, it’s all the more reason to ignore it. From time to time, there are songs featured in movies that add just the right note to the film, capping some essential moment, shedding light on an aspect that might have otherwise gone unnoticed or tying the whole film together in a neat little package. As I revisited David Fincher’s Fight Club a few nights ago, I found that as the film drew to its climax, I was anticipating when The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” plays, not just because it plays over the a significantly important part of the film, but because the song adds so much to moment when it plays.
There will be spoilers here if you have not seen Fight Club - BEWARE.
For those who went into Fight Club without having first read the book by Chuck Palahniuk, they might have been incredibly surprised when our unnamed protagonist, who is sometimes referred to as Jack (Edward Norton), is revealed to also be Tyler Durden (played by Brad Pitt), the madman part of Jack’s ego that runs an revolutionist army built from underground fight clubs. At the beginning of the film, Jack tells a doctor that he can’t sleep and hasn’t for months, wakes up in places and doesn’t know how he got there. Jim Uhls, the writer who adapted this film, did a great job selling this conceit in the structure of the film, which ultimately leads to pulling it off. Since there are numerous spots where the truth could be found prior to the reveal (“I know this because Tyler knows this”, "If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?", etc.), Fincher’s deft direction begs you to not only ask whether Jack really is Tyler, but also to dismiss it impossible. As we viewers take this journey with the two parts of one personality, we too are as confused as Jack as to what’s going on around him. His/Tyler’s relationship with Marla Singer (played by the smoky Helena Bonham-Carter) only adds to this mystery – “Except for their humping, Tyler and Marla were never in the same room. My parents pulled this exact act for years -- one came in, the other disappeared.” Tyler explicitly tells Jack to never mention him in her presence, and they dance around the possibility that Jack will mention Tyler to her on at least three occasions before he actually does. The vertigo caused by this dance further discombobulates our brains.
I am Jack and Tyler's snarky portrait... (Edward Norton - left, Brad Pitt - right)
And all of these details tie back to the song that plays out the movie’s end – The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” One can’t help but to ask this same question after having slogged through 2+ hours identifying with Jack, no Tyler, no both of them? Black Francis’ lyrics seem so apt as Jack sticks the gun in his mouth and literally blows Tyler away: “Your head will collapse\But there's nothing in it\And you'll ask yourself\Where is my mind?” The song may well have been written about a scuba diving experience, but it feels like it was destined for a film like this. And would the film’s ending be as strong had, say, Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage” or another song been used? Not a chance, and that’s what makes this song essential to the film and the perfect capper to what my sister-in-law once called “the feel good movie of 1999.” Few songs ever capture the essence of film, especially those not written specifically for the film. "Where Is My Mind?" does that and more. A tremendous addition to the film. It's a shame that is has been used in similar fashion in lesser films like 2011's Sucker Punch.
Jeremy Harmon aka Spirit of the Thing aka Harmonov was a Van Damme/action movie ilk devotee as a younger man. Oh how things have changed as I now prefer to delve into small budget independent and foreign films even though I still maintain that Slap Shot is the best movie ever. Follow him on Twitter @harmonov or read his new blog @ http://spiritofthething.wordpress.com/