Wake up from a nightmare in reality: the film The Machinist (2004): the meaning of the film, the plot summary, the essence, the explanation of the ending.
Genre: thriller, drama
Year of production: 2004
Director: Brad Anderson
Actors: Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sanchez-Gijón
tagline: How do you wake up from a nightmare if you don’t sleep?
Brad Anderson shot an atmospheric and rather expressive film, the main idea of which makes a strong impression and leaves an aftertaste. The meaning of the film The Machinist closely echoes the cult psychological thrillers of the past and even Dostoevsky’s novels: the picture primarily tells about pangs of conscience and remorse.
What is the movie about
Brief description of the content of the film “The Machinist”. The protagonist of the picture, a young man named Trevor Reznik, works at a factory. He was once a great fishing lover and led an active life, but now he suffers from insomnia, which has exhausted him, turning him into a walking skeleton. He does not eat anything – he does not want to, and in the refrigerator he has a long-rotten fish.
Christian Bale played the role of Trevor Reznik. Frame from the film.
Colleagues do not like the gloomy and gloomy guy. One day, a tragedy occurs in the workplace in which one of the workers loses his arm. Reznik, who is indirectly responsible for this, is accused of negligence. And he was only to blame for the fact that he was untimely distracted from the machine by another worker, Ivan. Reznik reports this, but a snag arises: at the plant, no one else knows this Ivan except him, and his name does not appear in the records.
Gradually, Trevor sinks into a paranoid delirium. He finds some salvation from the impending madness in communication with the waitress Maria. His sympathy is mutual, and the girl even allows him to spend some time with her son Nicholas.
The abyss of madness gradually absorbs it. However, he is sure that everything that happens to him is someone’s diabolical scenario. Every now and then he comes across “clues”, hinting that Ivan, with whom, as it turns out, he has a lot in common, is real …
Soon, a force majeure situation arises again at the plant. The tragedy is averted, but Reznik, convinced that his colleagues are trying to get rid of him in this way, attacks them with his fists in a rage. After that, he is fired.
One after another, troubles fall on Trevor. However, he, having become truly obsessed with Ivan, doesn’t seem to care much about it. One day, Reznik witnesses a collision with a pedestrian and, being sure that the sinister Ivan did it, turns to the police. However, detectives blame him for the accident.
Soon strange things start to happen. In particular, it turns out that no Mary exists – all this time Reznik talked with a completely different girl. Trevor realizes that he can no longer distinguish reality from delirium, but still decides to fight.
Toward the end of the picture, Reznik sees Ivan again – he, along with Nicholas, goes to his house. Trevor enters the apartment and calls the boy, but he does not respond. In the bathroom, he runs into Ivan and after a short struggle kills him, after which he is horrified to find that the body has disappeared…
The Machinist Ending explanation
In their analysis, viewers offer the following explanation for the ending. In the final, Reznik recalls events from the past.
It turns out that a year ago, Trevor, distracted from the road, knocked to death a child who looked very much like Nicholas. The boy’s mother, who looked like Mary, saw this. Not wanting to answer before the law, Reznik fled the scene of an accident, but his conscience eventually tormented him. The non-existent Ivan is nothing more than pangs of conscience, which led the hero to insomnia and exhaustion.
Remembering everything, Reznik thought about where he should go – to the airport to get lost in some other country and start a new life, or to the police station? After hesitating, he chooses the latter. Accompanied by the “revived” Ivan, Trevor goes to the police and confesses to the collision. He is sent to a cell and realizes that his insomnia has left him alone.
To understand the meaning of the ending of the film “The Machinist”, you need to remember Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” – a reference to this novel is constantly found in the film. The main idea of the work of the Russian classic is redemption through punishment for the committed murder, which, accordingly, leads to the salvation of Raskolnikov’s soul. The same can be said about the ending of The Machinist: its meaning lies in the fact that Reznik admitted to himself that he had become a murderer, repented of this and agreed to be punished.
The role of Stevie was played by Jennifer Jason Leah Frame from the film.
The meaning of the film The Machinist
The Machinist is a psychological thriller filled with details and symbols. The essence of the film is how a person who has received severe psychological trauma suffers from remorse.
A factory worker, Trevor Resnick, ran over a child in front of his mother and fled the scene. It happened at 13:30, near the airport, on the eve of Mother’s Day.
Reznik got rid of the car, telling the police that he crashed it in an accident. Seemingly insignificant details were imprinted in the man’s memory: a key chain with the inscription “Route-66”, which hung on a car mirror, and a cigarette lighter. Reznik also remembered what he was wearing – he was wearing aviator glasses and cowboy boots.
He doesn’t get the punishment he deserves. However, retribution overtakes him: conscience is his strict and ruthless judge. Due to guilt, Trevor loses sleep and loses weight dramatically. He tries to shift responsibility from himself to another person. At work, he meets the self-confident and mocking Ivan, who supposedly works in the shop with him. In fact, Ivan is something like Reznik’s dark counterpart, a product of his tired brain.
He seems to have absorbed all the negative qualities of the hero, and his repulsive appearance and rude manners indicate that Trevor dislikes him.
Ivan is physically stronger – this emphasizes the fact that he dominates the puny Trevor. The sinister doppelgänger drives Reznik’s car, wears his glasses and cowboy boots, and, like him, enjoys fishing.
John Sharian played the role of Ivan. Frame from the film.
The point of all Reznik’s actions is that he wants to shift his blame to Ivan. However, sensations, associations and flashes of memories make him seriously think about who is really guilty of all his troubles.
Ivan visits him more and more often and this leads to tragedy: due to inattention, Trevor starts the machine, on which his colleague’s hand is located. He blames Ivan for this too… His situation is getting worse, because now he is not only to blame for the death of the child. However, his mind stubbornly refuses to acknowledge this.
Tormented by guilt, the hero each time goes to a cafe located near the airport – it was here that he knocked down the boy. It seems to the man that the waitress who serves him is Maria, the mother of the deceased child. Out of guilt, he leaves her a generous tip. It seems to him that he could be happy with her and make friends with her son. There are things in her apartment that actually belong to Reznik – presumably, he simply associates Maria with his dead mother, and himself with Nicholas.
The fish symbol in the film seems interesting. K.G. Jung associated her with Christ. Therefore, the rotten fish in Trevor’s refrigerator may mean a departure from the ideals of Christ. In other words, we are talking about the fear and unwillingness of the hero to sacrifice his body for the sake of saving his soul – to give up freedom, accepting worldly punishment.
After going to an amusement park with his imaginary friends, Trevor, at the request of the boy, takes a ticket for the attraction “666” – this is a reference to both the key fob in his car and the so-called “devil’s number”: the man feels that he is sending Nicholas on a deadly journey.
Aitana Sanchez-Gijon as Marie, Christian Bale as Trevor. Frame from the film.
She and the boy are driving through a dark tunnel, which correlates with Reznik’s wandering through the gloomy nooks and crannies of memory. His conscience begins to torment him more and more and Trevor tries to punish himself, but at the same time the truth is still terrible for him, and he runs from it.
However, this does not last long – he gives up and goes to the police station. In one of the last mise en scenes, he is wearing a T-shirt with the inscription “Justice”.
If you look closely at the main poster of The Machinist, you can see a cross on the door. After the confession, Reznik ends up in a white prison cell. Relieved, Trevor falls asleep for the first time in a long time. Probably, there is also a reference to the Christian faith here: after the remission of sins, a person goes to heaven.
FAQ The Machinist
And this is partly true. In The Machinist we are talking about a symbolic railway. Reznik is like a train driver who has lost control of the train (and now his life is going downhill) and a passenger who passively goes where they are being taken. He suffers from insomnia, he is tormented by conscience – this is what makes him eventually take responsibility for his deeds and for himself.
Here are a few more films similar in meaning to the painting “The Machinist”:
- “American Psycho” (USA, Canada, 2000). Patrick Bateman leads a double life: for some he is a handsome man from Wall Street, and for others he is a bloody murderer and a sadist.
- “Shutter Island” (USA, 2009). A patient disappears from a psychiatric hospital located on a remote island in Massachusetts. Two bailiffs are sent to investigate a strange case.
- “Stay” (USA, 2005). A young man named Henry is obsessed with the idea of suicide. Trying to keep him from doing this, his therapist goes on a strange journey with him.