Film Form With Patrick Bateman

Known to many as the film that launched Christian Bale into the spotlight, American Psycho is one the most unconventional and conversational films of the decade.  Since it’s release it has garnered a massive cult following for various reasons. I liked the film because it managed to utilize  the traditional aspects of film, without compromising it’s personality.

The frequent use of narration throughout the story lends to the consistency of the film, while engaging the viewer emotionally as well. By hearing his most intimate thoughts, we are able to empathize with , or loathe the character.

Tough American Psycho may be labeled as a “horror” film, most of the murders committed in the movie don’t come off as “horrific”, but rather almost comical. The movie has a sarcastic edge, largely due to Chrisian Bale’s off-beat portrayal. It is rare that we see a psychotic murderer with such charisma. The film also makes use of repetition, for it seems that whenever Patrick starts these  monologues about music, he’s usually about to kill someone.

In terms of Form and Meaning, It provides many interpretations. On the surface, It’s movie about a serial killer who kills because it makes him feel important. In his “real” life, he is no different than any other yuppie stockbroker, and he feels reality slipping away.  I think from a symptomatic perspective, it’s a satire of the hallow, lascivious lifestyle that is striven for in this country. The money, drugs, and sex that pervades our culture, ultimately leaves you empty, and often deranged.

A lot of people felt the book and movie were  misogynistic, when in actuality, it’s the men who come out looking worse in the end. The men were depicted as very image-conscious, and materialistic; a definite role-reversal from most films.

Another interesting thing about the movie is the development which uses a lot of parallels.  As the murders become increasingly unrealistic, the character becomes more and more unwound. In the beginning of the film, he murders a homeless man in a back alley where no one is around, which is plausible. But during the middle of the movie, a woman runs out of his apartment and he chases her down the hallway and then drops a chainsaw on her.  Then towards the end of the film, he goes on a wild shooting rampage , that mirrors the characters complete lack of sanity or control at this point.

In the end, the viewer is left just as confused as the protagonist.  The viewer’s formal expectations in most movies about serial killers is that in the end, the killer will be punished on the victims behalf by either being killed or sent to jail. Instead, Patrick Bateman is ostensibly a free man.  His last narration leaves us wondering whether these obscene acts actually happened, or were just a figment of his dark imagination. This disunity only adds to the films overall effectiveness.


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