Welcome to my blog dedicated to the similarities I find in two classic movies, Fight Club (FC) and I Heart Huckabees (IHH) (contains spoilers).
Obviously, you can find secret meanings in anything if you want to - a children's song could really be about drugs. Many movies have similar features - after all, there's more than one movie with a car chase. But I find a number of features that appear in both these movies, and few others.
1. In both movies, the protagonists find out they are ... the same person!
(FC) Tyler to narrator: "You're ... Tyler Durden." (IHH) Albert, after the fire, with Caterine: "... until I saw that I'm Brad and he's me". In the elevator, Albert to Brad Stand: "We're the same!"
2. People blowing up their "own" homes
(FC) Tyler blows up the narrator's condo. (IHH) Albert sets fire to Brad Stand's jet skis, and the fire spreads to his house. They also fight "themselves" in both movies.
3. Coping with stress by going to a black closed space
(FC) The narrator goes to his "cave". (IHH) Albert gets zipped up inside a black bag.
(FC) Tyler: "It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything." The narrator: "Losing all hope was freedom." (IHH) Tommy Corn: "Once you realize the universe sucks, you've got nothing to lose."
5. People hitting themselves
(FC) The narrator, when he confronts his boss. The very first fight of the Fight Club, we discover, is actually the narrator hitting (fighting) himself. (IHH) Albert and Tommy Corn hit themselves with a red rubber ball thing. Jon Brion soundtrack lyric, ”Go and knock yourself out".
6. Move out of home with possessions strewn in front of their building (with firemen in attendance)
(FC) The narrator, after his condo explodes. (IHH) Molly (Tommy Corn's wife), when she leaves Tommy.
7. Dancing as a diversion
(FC) Tyler, when the paramedics come to save Marla. (IHH) Tommy, so that Albert can sneak in to get his file.
8. People jumping in to cars
(FC) Tyler at the airport. (IHH) Vivian Jaffe (actually Lily Tomlin's stunt double), at the car park at Albert's work.
9. Dumpster diving
(FC) Tyler and the narrator at the liposuction clinic. (IHH) The detectives (Jaffes) at Brad Stand's house, finding Kafka.
10. Hi-rise buildings falling/ascending
(FC) Skyscrapers fall in the final scene. (IHH) Hi-rise buildings sprout out of the ground during Caterine's monologue.
(FC) The narrator writes poetry (haiku). (IHH) Albert is a poet, and Brad Stand writes poetry for the detectives at their behest.
12. Vehicle stopping in time to not hit someone
(FC) The narrator stands in front of a bus that stops in time to not hit him. (IHH) A car containing the African man stops in time to not hit Albert.
13. Shouting at people while running away, down a staircase
(FC) Marla, when the paramedics come to save her at her home. (IHH) Albert and Tommy Corn, running away from the detectives at Huckabees Corp.
14. People fight their replacement
(FC) The narrator fights Angel Face (Jared Leto) at the fight club after he replaces him as Tyler's favorite. (IHH) Dawn Campbell grapples with Heather after she replaces her as Miss Huckabees.
15. Damsel in distress rescued (with paramedics attending)
(FC) Marla ODs, and Tyler comes to rescue her. She had also called paramedics, who arrive after Tyler. (IHH) Dawn is passed out in her house in the fire, and fire fighter Tommy Corn comes to rescue her. Paramedics later attend, and she is taken away by ambulance.
16. Aggression through a pane of glass
(FC) The narrator shoots at Tyler through the glass, while trying to enter the building with the van loaded with nitro. (IHH) Dawn Campbell shouts at people through glass - "there's glass between us!" - and then butt-slams the glass at Huckabees Corp. 2 Mar 19
17. Squirted with water by hose
(FC) A civilian is squirted with a hose by a club member in order to start a fight (to recruit them). (IHH) Tommy Corn sprays fellow fire fighters with his fire hose. (The detectives also get squirted by the sprinklers at Brad Stand’s house when they go there to spy on him.) 11 Apr 19
18. Intrusion by phoney
(FC) Marla ruins the narrator’s support groups by attending. He accuses her of faking the illnesses she is purportedly there to improve. (IHH) Brad Stand infuriates Albert by appearing at his session with the detectives. The detectives later suggest Brad fakes the issues he claims to be there to work on. 21 Nov 2019 Appended 23 Mar 20
19. Opening titles a tracking shot leaving/pursuing the main protagonist
(FC) Title sequence is a reverse tracking shot exiting the brain of the narrator from inside.
(IHH) Title sequence is a tracking shot of Albert pursuing “himself” (ie a person identical to him in appearance) while finding the detectives’ office.
Both films also open with a focus adjust from blurred to focus, with the main protagonist talking to themself. 1 Jan 20 3 Apr 20
20. Demolition prevention as the location of the beginning and end of the movie
(FC) The narrator tries to thwart the demolition plot (unsuccessfully). (IHH) Albert at the rock tries stop the bulldozers to prevent Huckabees Corp development at the expense of the environment. 6 Dec 19
21. Face in man breasts
(FC) The narrator has his face pressed in to the breasts of Bob (Meat Loaf), who has gynecomastia from steroid use. (IHH) Albert is wet-nursed by Brad Stand in a dream sequence. 1 22. Assault on a vehicle
(FC) The narrator and Tyler sledgehammer the front ends of cars to activate their airbags.
(IHH) Tommy Corn wacks his fellow firefighter’s fire truck as he passes them on his bicycle, while they are stuck in the grid lock. 3 Apr 20
23. Defect to the nihilists
(FC) The narrator abandons his support groups to live with Tyler and participate in the fight club. Some have described Tyler’s life philosophy as nihilism. Bob (Meat Loaf) also abandons his support group for the fight club. (IHH) Albert and Tommy Corn abandon the Jaffes for Caterine Vauban. Bernard Jaffe to Tommy, when Tommy describes Vauban’s philosophy to Albert: “That’s nihilism, Tommy!” 6 Apr 20
(Note: I don’t claim to know the finer points of nihilism, and concede these philosophies may not meet its agreed definition.)
24. Ride a bicycle and ‘wipeout’
(FC) Tyler rides a bike inside the house, crashes and is thrown off. (IHH) Tommy Corn rides a bike to the fire. When he arrives, he dismounts with a skidding pirouette that leaves him on the ground. Albert and Vivian Jaffe also ride bikes. 7 Apr 20
(FC) The narrator: “I never knew my father.” (IHH) Caterine to Albert: “you were orphaned by indifference.” Could be a source of their issues (speculative). 30 Apr 20
26. Nihilist gurus appear, along side main protagonists, on transport 23 Apr 20
(FC) Tyler enters the narrator’s life as a random passenger, in the seat next to him, on the plane. (IHH) Caterine's first appearance is in the limousine, traveling alongside Albert and Tommy Corn, as they run down a street. Her appearance in LA (“she never leaves Paris!”) goes unexplained.
27. Repeat dialogue
(FC) Tyler, “He fell down some stairs.” Narrator, “I fell down some stairs.” (IHH) Bernard Jaffe, “Let's start with the method.” Brad Stand, “Let's start with the method.” 25 Oct 20
28. Together/not together
Non-nihilist therapies: (FC) Support group is named, "Remaining Men Together". (IHH) Bernard Jaffe: “everything’s connected”.
Nihilist therapies: (FC) Men fight each other. (IHH) Tommy Corn: “She (Catherine Vauban) says nothing's connected.” 7 Nov 20
29. Rock stars attack!
(FC) At the Fight Club, the narrator fights Bob (played by Meat Loaf) and Angel Face (Jared Leto, of Thirty Seconds to Mars). (IHH) In the elevator, Brad Stand is attacked by Shania Twain (playing herself). 7 Dec 20
30. False food 01 Jan 21
(FC) Tyler adulterates diner’s food with his bodily fluids during his work as a waiter.
(IHH) Brad Stand claims he feeds Shania Twain chicken salad, passing it off as tuna salad.
31. Overheard ‘zoo music’
(FC) The narrator is subjected to the sounds of Marla and Tyler’s acts of marital congress. (IHH) The detectives, as part of their surveillance, overhear Brad Stand and Dawn during, “our seven minutes of heaven - It's longer than that - eight minutes of heaven!” 01 Jan 21
32. Can't stop the process
(FC) Narrator orders Project Mayhem disciples: “We're aborting this mission right now.” They ignore him proceed with the project. (IHH) Brad Stand to detectives: “But seriously, I want to quit the process with you.” Bernard Jaffe: “You can't quit until the case is over.” 28 Feb 21
33. Insert images covertly
(FC) Tyler inserts frames of adult movies in to children’s movies while working as a projectionist.
(IHH) Albert plants photos of himself at the Schottinger photo archive. 4 Apr 21
34. Free treatment
(FC) Tyler explains to Lou that participation in the fight club is, “free to all”. (IHH) The Jaffes accept Albert as a client pro bono. 4 Apr 21
Tyler (FC) and Albert (IHH) both take baths.
The narrator (FC) and Albert (IHH) both get sacked from their jobs, brush their teeth and eat breakfast.
The narrator (FC) and Albert (IHH) both end up with their pants around their ankles.
Both movies have faux advertising, and business cards filmed in close-up. 6 Apr 20
Filming location for both movies is Los Angeles (often is).
The narrator (FC) and Albert (IHH) are both knocked off their feet by “clothesline” style take-downs. 4 Jan 20
(FC) Halo man, “Is this a test?” (IHH) Jon Brion soundtrack lyric, “It might be a test.” 19 Apr 20
In both movies, the main protagonists relieve their suffering by emancipating themselves from their antagonist, who is, they discover, the personification of their struggle with materialism.
The narrator’s symptom is insomnia (FC), while Albert’s is the experience of strange coincidences (IHH). The narrator seeks out a doctor for relief of his insomnia, who refers him to support groups. Albert stumbles upon the Jaffes, who are psychic detectives (!). These practitioners endorse a type of meditation they practice by closing themselves in to a darkened space. The narrator visualises a cave that he goes to, while Albert gets zipped up inside a literal black bag. The narrator later uses this method to relieve his pain when Tyler burns his hand; Albert, when Brad Stand intrudes on his session with the Jaffes.
Both main protagonists later abandon these remedies for new solutions, the proponents of which are nihilists. Their treatment is to hit themselves and other disciples. The narrator hits himself (i.e. Tyler, who, we learn is the narrator), as well as hitting and being hit by other members of the fight club. He narrates, “After fighting … you can deal with anything”. Albert and Tommy hit themselves and each other with the red rubber ball thing, and experience “pure being”.
While they gain temporary relief from their symptoms with different methods, the main protagonists must still overcome their conflict with materialism in order to solve their lives.
The narrator is materialist to the point of wanting to own each item in the Ikea catalogue. In his mind, he creates Tyler, an anti-materialist, and their relationship cures his materialism. Tyler destroys his material possessions, and the narrator then adopts his anti-materialist lifestyle. But taking anti-materialism to its logical conclusion threatens to destroy society, and so Tyler himself becomes the source of the narrator’s distress. He must now free himself of extreme anti-materialism by killing Tyler, which he achieves by shooting himself in the face. He now arrives at the right balance of materialism in his life.
Albert’s conflict with materialism derives from his commitment to the environment. Huckabees Corp wants to clear areas of local woods and marsh in order to build a department store, a symbol of materialism. Brad Stand, a Huckabees executive, is materialism personified. Because Albert has his own materialism, he sees himself in Brad, wanting the lifestyle of jet skis and dating a model. He thus is conflicted between opposing Huckabees to save the environment, and indulging his own materialism by enabling Brad. Albert frees himself of materialism by destroying Brad Stand's house and possessions with a fire. This mirrors the narrator blowing up his own apartment in the guise of Tyler, to discard his materialism. Albert can now fight to save the environment unconflicted.
Both movies end with the main protagonists left literally in the same place they were at the beginning of each movie, but their lives are now solved. The quote, “before enlightenment, chop wood carry water, after enlightenment, chop wood carry water” (Zen?) fits here.
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