Two stories that might not sound as though they’re related in any way at all are Secret Window and Fight Club, and it’s easy to laugh and say that they’ve got nothing to do with each other. But to be fair, there’s a big similarity that any thinking person would be able to notice just by watching both movies. The most obvious similarity is that both Mort Rainey, played by Johnny Depp, and The Narrator, played by Edward Norton, are dealing with imaginary characters that they’ve allowed to become real after something in their lives managed to trigger them in a way that caused their personalities to split, thereby creating a new character that knew everything they knew, someone who could anticipate them, and someone that was undeniably toxic for them. For Mort it was the strange man from Mississippi that was accusing him of plagiarizing his story, known only as Shooter. For The Narrator, it was Tyler Durden, an eccentric individual that was as anti-establishment as they got. Both imaginary characters were, as the audience already knows, born from the minds of the tortured individuals they were there to interact with. That alone is what links these two movies, but there are least a couple of other similarities.
For one, only The Narrator and Mort can see the individuals they interact with, which makes Fight Club kind of amusing since one has to wonder if the other recruits have to deal with The Narrator talking to himself or if his conversations with Tyler are one-sided and taking place half in his head and half in the real world. With Mort and Shooter, the latter is only ever present in one situation when Mort is seen by another person, and this ends up leading to a double murder to hide Mort’s secret.
Another similarity is that there is a woman involved, though of course, both situations are very different. As Mort slips further into his maddened state he continues to deal with his ex-wife as she calls him occasionally and has to deal with Mort’s absolute disdain for her new boyfriend, who she was cheating on Mort with before the dissolution of their marriage. As for The Narrator, his own issues with Marla stem from first dealing with her when they attend the same support groups, and continue once Tyler spends the entire night pleasuring Marla. For Marla, this is a frustrating and aggravating time, but for Amy, Mort’s continuing descent into madness becomes dangerous when someone burns down home. Keep in mind, Tyler finally admits to burning The Narrator’s apartment as well in order to set him on the path to enlightenment. One could argue that Shooter appeared to do the same for Mort, to get him focused on what was important, while tying up loose ends along the way. It’s a dark and callous way to look at Amy, but it’s something that makes a lot of sense in a story that’s designed to confuse the audience just enough to get them thinking about who Shooter really is. Both movies take a long time to reach the moment in which they finally reveal the truth of who the antagonist is, but there are more than a few clues along the way that indicate what’s going on.
With Fight Club it has to do with the breaks in the movie where images will appear within the movie, while in Secret Window there are hints here and there that Shooter might not be who everyone thinks he is. Both movies do a fair job of keeping people in the dark for a while before the hints start to emerge, and it’s fun to think that a lot of people might still be in the dark as to where said clues might lie. But the fact is that both stories dealt with very troubled individuals that had been through a traumatic moment in their lives that allowed their mind to finally fracture completely, though in the case of The Narrator, Tyler didn’t become his reality until he absolutely needed him. Subconsciously, Tyler was already out and moving about by the time The Narrator came to depend on him, since insomnia had The Narrator staying up constantly, working odd jobs and secretly coming up with ways to disrupt society.
On the other end is Mort Rainey, who wasn’t out to disrupt anything and was content to spend his days sleeping on his couch until the Shooter personality came busting in to demand that he settle his business and fix something that he’d never been fully satisfied with. The difference between both movies is obvious, but the similarities require a bit of looking. What’s there to be found however is rather interesting since it links these two movies in a number of intriguing ways.