A pivotal scene accurately encapsulates the philosophy that pervades both Chuck Palahniuk’s original novel Fight Club and David Fincher’s movie adaptation is the so-called human sacrifice scene. Overall, there is fidelity between the adaptation and the original, however, the sacrifice scene in particular stands out as demarcating the two works creatively. Palahniuk’s version has the narrator pointing a gun at convenience store owner Raymond K. Hessel, questioning him, and threatening the clerk with death unless he returned to pursuing previous ambitions. The Narrator tells him: “You could be in school working your ass off, Raymond Hessel, or you could be dead” (Palahniuk 154). The movie portrays this act being perpetrated by Durden instead. The Narrator is present in the scene, however, the script calls for him to be “growing even paler […] slump[ed] against a tree” (Fight Club). This makes the Narrator seem passive rather than active. Why then would Fincher choose to portray the scene the way he did, and what does this change do to the film?
I propose that the difference exists to add a visual element to essential aspects of the story, as well as meet the audience’s artistic expectations of the work. Because this alteration is Fincher’s most significant modification, ultimately, it helps to answer the question of when an adaptation is different than the original work.
The addition of Durden to the scene helps maintain the idea that he and the Narrator are separate people. Later, in the movie and the book, the narrator realizes that Tyler is actually him – a split personality created out of insomnia. The film portrays this through flashback methods. Up until this point, a clear distinction between the two needed to be maintained. This distinction is achieved through the novel easily, by utilizing first person narration. Due to the third person perspective, the use of voice overlays to express the Narrators thoughts is no longer sufficient to differentiate the two. Instead, creating a literal, visual Tyler (portrayed by Brad Pitt) for the viewer achieves this.
The ‘sacrifice’ scene presents an opportunity to firmly establish the two as separate in more than a physical sense. Not only are they opposed as to what to do, but, Mr. Hessel seems to act as though there are two people there. Consequently, the scene combines the separation that comes from literally having two different people with further philosophical and emotional estrangement between the two characters. The explanation above may seem somewhat pat, that does not discredit it it entirely, but means that the artistic choice must be multifactorial.
The expectations of the audience are the second component that explains the stylistic choice. The expectations have two subcomponents: stereotyped masculinity and consistent character development. Impressions of machismo from the actors previous movies determines who is expected to be masculine in Fight Club. The actor who plays Durden,...