IKEA As Represented In Movies
IKEA is a Swedish furniture company that has led a revolution in the design of the home. The world’s largest furniture retailer, IKEA has transformed taste in interior design. The promise offered is that IKEA’s brand of Scandinavian Modernist design and Swedish orderliness can transform the home, and give us simpler, calmer, more ordered lives.
IKEA is a major cultural phenomenon and as a result it has featured in a number of film and TV productions. These give an indication of how the company is perceived and the place it occupies within our society. David Fincher's film Fight Club (1999) deals with the crisis in masculinity experienced in the late 90s. Edward Norton plays on office worker who leads a bland life of endless consumption.
Fincher employs CGI to show Norton's apartment being populated by IKEA items as he lists his recent purchases. Each piece appears with a printed description as though the room is a virtual-reality representation of the IKEA catalogue. Norton says, ‘I'd flip through catalogues and wonder, “what kind of dining set defines me as a person?”’ He’s come to identify so strongly with the IKEA brand that he has substituted it for his own identity.
The film is a satire on consumer culture and the apathetic approach to life that it breeds. In an absurd display of multi-tasking, Norton sits on his toilet while perusing an IKEA catalogue. He turns the catalogue 90 degrees to take in a two-page spread, then tosses it on the floor. It lands on an issue of Playboy, suggesting that the catalogue constitutes a kind of lifestyle pornography.
Later in the film Norton encounters Brad Pitt’s character Tyler Durden, who lures him into an underground fight club. Durden rejects consumer culture and brand identification, exclaiming ‘You are not your latte. You are not the car you drive’. He calls Norton’s character ‘IKEA boy’. The fight club seems to offer a return to a raw, primal, simplistic version of manhood.
This film reflects on the negative aspects of IKEA. A film that reflects on the promise offered by IKEA, albeit in a gently mocking way, is (500) Days of Summer (2009), an unconventional romantic comedy. Joseph Gordon Levitt plays a romantic but naive office worker who becomes infatuated with colleague Zooey Deschanel (who can blame him?). The scene features the young star-crossed lovers sweeping through IKEA and playing house in the room settings. They are fantasising about settling down and making a home in a way that gently parodies the 'happy family' discourse purveyed by IKEA's markerting strategies. Playing this out against a backdrop of IKEA room sets subtly hints at the fragility of their relationship.