The meaning of the movie “American Psycho”
American Psycho is a film that is a true polymorphism of the cinematic genre, in other words: it can take many forms that only become apparent upon close viewing.
Thus, an ordinary viewer, when viewed superficially, can only see a film that is strange in its grotesque and sadism, the meaning of which is a perverse craving for murder and attempts to attract the viewer with scenes of unjustified harshness.
But “American Psycho” is not at all so simple, and upon careful analysis it acquires meaning, even a moral connotation.
For many viewers, when watching a movie, it is a surprise to learn that a picture filled with murder and an atmosphere of suspense is characterized not as a horror movie or a thriller, but as a satirical black comedy. “Well, where is the humor” – the question is brewing after watching. And humor can be traced in all episodes, pretentious weirdness and unrealistic characters, whose actions sometimes make even less sense than the bloodbath perpetrated by the main character – Patrick Bateman.
The very first shots of the film begin with drops of blood, regularly dripping against the background of the credits, thus creating the impression of the picture as a horror movie, but the very next second we see how the same drops turn out to be ordinary cranberry juice and have nothing to do with harshness. The whole picture rests on such a play of contrasts, in every possible way sneering at the stereotypes accepted in society. Attempts to deceive the viewer take the form of an apotheosis at the end of the film, when it becomes completely incomprehensible whether Bateman’s actions were in fact real or just a riot of perverted fantasy.
Rebellion against the culture of consumption
Obviously, the director’s intention was to ridicule the culture of consumption, when external attributes are put by people in the first position among the main values in life. Even in the very title “American Psycho” you can see this connection. The nationalist emphasis on the word “American” symbolizes the pinnacle of Western consumer culture, of which the United States is justifiably considered a stronghold. The protagonist, in an attempt to get out of the depressing reality, reveals a protest, tries to destroy the established framework in society and go beyond them.
Best of all characterizes the contempt of Bale’s character for the culture of consumption, the room in his apartment, which is littered with human bodies, and the inscription “Die yuppie scum” is written on the wall in blood. Yuppie scum is a generation of Wall Street businessmen from the 80s. Young, rich, impeccably groomed and dressed, they do not know what it is to fight for existence and earn their daily bread. Die yuppie scum is a graffiti campaign that arose as a protest against the spread of such lifestyles and behaviors.
In this vein, the film is very similar to the sensational thriller “Fight Club”, where the main character is also a representative of a typical society and strives only for external attributes. As a result, he finally “gets off the coils” and acquires a second “I”, which seeks to destroy the paradigms of behavior in society.
All the characters in the picture strive in every possible way to portray the life of a privileged society filled with joys: constant parties, drug use, visits to beauty salons. It is important to note here that there is not a single shot in the film where people really work: they are only having fun, sitting in restaurants, and all conversations are based on discussing the external characteristics of other people. The cult of hedonism and no moral guidelines. Most of all in this regard, the main character of Christian Bale stands out: he always comes to work late, and in the office he only listens to music and draws in his notebook.
When trying to tidy up your body and somehow stand out from the crowd, the main irony here is that the characters in the movie are not at all different from each other. Moreover, they are constantly confused in names and take each other for different people. So, even Paul Owen, after torturing Bateman, does not recognize him and takes him for another yuppie Marcus Halberstram.
The characters of the film are so mired in their pink and carefree world that they absolutely do not accept another reality. So, Bateman periodically expresses his thoughts and secrets, admits that he loves to engage in murder in his free time, but his revelations are not noticed at all.
Bateman’s dual personality
The central character of the film is constantly torn between two entities: a highly paid employee of a prestigious campaign and a mad psychopath with a thirst for violence, cannibalism and necrophilia. Like any high-class representative who is ridiculed in the film, Patrick carefully monitors his appearance: he regularly exercises, with great attention to the choice of wardrobe and even such trifles as a business card or a writing pen.
The greatest duality of Patrick’s personality is expressed in his attitude towards other people and issues of society. So, he criticizes friends for anti-Semitic jokes, is an ardent opponent of racism, economic inequality – but this is just another costume that he puts on.
Greed and hypocrisy are the main components of the protagonist’s personality. Patrick has a very peculiar sense of humor, where he sneers at his miserable existence. It is during these rare moments that you can see how Bateman actually treats himself. An absurd sense of humor is Patrick’s soul cry, imperceptible to those around him, a manifestation of the depression in which he is mired.
With the pronounced dualism of the character of the main character, in the course of the film it is not at all difficult to notice that, as such, he lacks individuality, like all other characters in the film, who are only caricatured parodies of each other. Patrick feels completely alien to the world around him and tries to find the most natural model of behavior so as not to stand out from other people: he listens to popular music to imitate the musical taste of ordinary people, he watches pornography to learn how to make love, he rented horror films in order to learn how to kill. Patrick’s personality is a collective image of popular culture and an attempt to imitate the social environment.
Fiction or reality?
When watching the movie, you can see how Bateman gradually begins to go crazy. In an attempt to escape reality, his sadistic inclinations take on more and more sophisticated forms, which translates into the murder of more than seven people he meets (including an old woman on the street, a police detachment, a maitre d ‘and a janitor). Patrick hastily returns to his office and in tears confesses all the crimes committed to his lawyer named Garrett.
After frank confessions, the protagonist returns to the apartment of Paul Owen, whom he had killed earlier, to destroy evidence. But to his surprise, it turns out that Paul never lived in these apartments, which becomes an obvious signal that all (or most of them) of Patrick’s murders are just a riot of his imagination. This theory is supported by the final scene where Bateman meets with his lawyer, to whom he previously confessed to the murders. Garrett took all the words about the murders as a joke and said in perplexity that Paul Owen was actually alive.
Patrick Bateman, in an attempt to escape from reality, invented a sadistic universe in which he denied all moral principles and social norms known to him. But as we can see from the sign on the door in the final scene – “This is not an Exit.”