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The movie American Psycho is written and directed by Mary Harron. The story is adopted from the novel "American Psycho written by Bret Easton Ellis. The movie has presented the life style of a typical young and prosperous broker of the Wall Street, who has a unique way of clothing, dining, listening to music etc. In fact the movie is a social interpretation of extremes of the 1980s.
The character being portrayed in the movie is a kind of a man who believes to spend his life on his own. He used to dine at the finest restaurants of the city, wears the fanciest cloths and has a unique way of living. Working as a Vice President of Pierce and Pierce, he is considered to be one of the most disciplined executives of the company. As Mr. Patrick Bateman keeps on enjoying his routine life, socializing with his lover and other female counterparts, his life is suddenly disturbed because of the disappearance of one of his rivals, Mr. Paul Allen, and the detective directs his investigation towards Patrick.
The story of American Psycho is built around the obsession of the movie's narrator. Throughout the movie, the narrator, which is also the main character of the movie, has revealed about his psychosis. At a point the narrator himself admits
"I think my mask of sanity is about to slip" (Cinephiles)
The movie portrays the corrupt practices of the society that permit or encourage the people like Mr. Patrick to exercise acts of wickedness. In majority of the scenes of the movie, there is an imbuement of slight humor, which have effectively contrasted the one dimensional world of such people and has emphasize on the worthlessness of their existence.
The film is a portrayal of a protagonist who belongs to the New York of the 1980s. In order to understand the genre of the movie and to evaluate the focus of the story, it is important to understand as to what elements of the movie has portrayed the New York City of the 1980s as a capital of immoderation. Moreover, because the movie is a narration of its main character, it is important to understand how different elements of the movie are integrated to elevate the character's lack of identity to a level of psychosis.
The images and the environment shown to represent the New York of 1980s are mainly sights of skyscrapers and night skyline. To further deepen the identity of that era, music records of that period are used such as records of Phil Collins, Whitney Houston, and Information Society etc. Furthermore, the costume designs and the interior designs of the apartments being shown are a reflection of the 80s. A scene showing Ronald Reagan, delivering a live speech also confirms the era.
There are several other images that facilitate the viewers to understand the story's settings as well as the point-of-view of the narrator. This also helps to identify the genre of the movie and to describe the theme of the story. The scenes showing the dance clubs with music, brightening colors offer a discernible enrichment. These images depict the allurement of violence usually portrayed by several television shows and movies. Moreover, they create an atmosphere of pixilated affectation.
Throughout the movie, the factor of violence and suspense is obvious. For instance, in a scene Patrick Bateman is shown using drugs along with a male counterpart in a rest room. In the mean time he goes to the bartender and asks her for a drink in an insulting fashion and even threatens to murder her. The atmosphere portrayed in the movie is that of shallowness, materialism and impudence. Scenes showing Patrick and his friends making last minute reservations at some prestigious restaurants and Patrick dining with his lover at some posh restaurant confirm to this atmosphere. At one point Patrick tries to impress his lover by lying that they were dining at an eminent cafe even though they were not.
Most of the characters in the movie are portrayed as self-conceited and trifling individuals. The friends and peers of Mr. Patrick are mostly pretty affluent and have a precious life style. Moreover, both the women associated to Patrick are shown mostly socializing in a party or traveling in an expensive car. That scene, in which Patrick is shown with his male companions, also portrays affluence of his companions and a feeling of competition among them. This is evident in one of the scenes when they all of them match each other's business cards. Such scenes reveal the mentality of these characters to cut each other off and the insignificance in each character's exertion to compare himself with his other peers. However, the female counterparts are not interested in being competitive with each other. At some points in the movie, viewers can get the impression that Evelyn (Patrick's Fiancee) is aware of his affair with her best friend but still remains out of any conflict with her. She is aware of Patrick's untrustworthy nature and hence chooses to avoid any conflict. There are several scenes that give the impression of a no competition strategy adopted by women.
"Other scenes echo this same notion of no competition/no conflict and even suggest an idea of harmony between female characters. These include the sex scenes where Patrick hires two prostitutes for a menage-a-trios, or when he asks his friend Elizabeth and prostitute Christie to have sex with each other. Yet since in the first scene Patrick pays the prostitutes to perform, and in the other, he secretly pours a drug into both women's drinks, one may argue that female compliance, as well as a sense of "harmony" between the female characters, is not genuine. Still, the latter scene seems to offer a momentary lapse of endearment: In the background, Patrick plays and critiques Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All" while Elizabeth and Christie transmit a sense of relaxation with their caresses (the only caresses of the entire film) and their laughter. Due to the staginess of the situation and to the viewer's knowledge of Patrick Bateman's tendencies, however, the scene satirizes this moment of false pleasantry and effectively maintains a high degree of suspense." (Cinephiles)
American Psycho has portrayed the character of Patrick Bateman as a young urban professional who belongs to the group of flimsy individuals. However, his personality is shown different from that of the others. In a number of scenes, he is shown taking care of his body structure and his health. This is quite obvious from the character's performance of exercises and facial treatments, shown in various scenes. These scenes represent the duality of the external and internal characteristics of the person. The movie has clearly established the psychosis of its main character through voice narration. Through this he tries to define about his personality and about his mental distortion. There are some scenes, which reflect his awareness of his mental distortion. For instance, in a scene he draws the steel menu, given by the restaurant, closer to him and tries to visualize a vague and distorted image of his face. In some other scenes the voice over narration of Patrick tries to portray his mental state by comparing his external charm with his inner hollowness. This is obvious in a scene when in a massage parlor the young girl notifies him:
"What beautiful skin you have; so fine, so smooth."
In reply to her comments he responds in the following words: "I have all the characteristics of a human: flesh, bones and blood, but not a single idea or emotion" (Cinephelis)
All such dramatizing reflects a feeling that he lacks the self-identity of himself. However, the voice narration gives the impression that he is aware of his mental distortion. His character is no doubt portrayed as a person leading a double life. His personality seems to be misshapen from inside and he seems to be extremely cautious of his internal distortion.
These weaknesses of his personality become obvious when he first murders a homeless man. This scene shows the violence within Patrick's personality and the dejection that he possesses towards the poor. He conducts this murder as a means to resolve his contempt and to declare his fanaticism. In his next attempt, he targets Paul Allen as his victim. The scene of Paul's murder, is an instance of film's integration with respect to its visual, auricular and narrative elements. It creates a disturbing and burlesqued portrayal of Patrick. These scenes give the impression of cinematic violence and a deep understanding of main character's (Patrick) psychosis. The way he prepares to murder Paul by covering his furniture and wearing a rain cloth shows his extreme concern for material objects and ignorance towards others. Although such measures taken by him reflect his obsession with materials but his purist approach in this regard accentuates the degree of planning he has done for the murder, which again reflects his extreme psychosis. In the scene of Paul's…[continue]
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