American Psycho is a film that is a true polymorphism of the cinematic genre, in other words: it can take on many forms that only become apparent upon closer inspection.
So, the average viewer, when viewed superficially, can only see a film that is strange in its grotesque and sadism, the meaning of which lies in a perverted 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 makes sense, even moral overtones.
It comes as a surprise to many viewers when watching the movie that the film, filled with murder and suspense, is characterized not as a horror film or thriller, but as a satirical black comedy. “Well, where is the humor here” – the question is brewing after watching. And humor can be traced in all episodes, artsy oddity and unrealistic characters, whose actions sometimes make even less sense than the bloodbath perpetrated by the main character – Patrick Bateman.
The very first frames of the film begin with drops of blood dripping steadily against the background of the credits, thus giving the impression of the picture as a horror movie, but in the next second we see how the same drops turn out to be ordinary cranberry juice and have nothing to do with hardness. The whole picture rests on such a game of contrasts, in every possible way ironically over the stereotypes accepted in society. Attempts to deceive the viewer take the form of an apotheosis in the finale of the film, when it becomes completely incomprehensible whether Bateman’s actions were actually real or just a riot of perverted fantasy.
Revolt against consumer culture
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 basic values of life. Even in the name “American Psycho” you can see this connection. The nationalistic emphasis on the word “American” symbolizes the pinnacle of Western consumer culture, of which the United States is rightfully considered the stronghold. The protagonist, in an attempt to get out of the depressing reality, reveals a protest, tries to destroy the boundaries established in society and go beyond them.
Bale’s character’s contempt for consumer culture is best characterized by a 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 – the generation of businessmen from Wall Street in 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 started out as a protest against the spread of this lifestyle and behaviour.
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 “goes off the rails” 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 joyful life of a privileged society: constant parties, drug use, visits to beauty salons. It is important to note here that there is not a single frame in the film where people really work: they only have fun, sit in restaurants, and all conversations are based on a discussion of the external characteristics of other people. The cult of hedonism and no moral guidelines. The main character of Christian Bale stands out the most in this regard: he always comes to work late, and in the office he only listens to music and draws in his notebook.
When trying to get your body in order 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. Even more than that: they constantly get 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 do not accept another reality at all. So, Bateman periodically expresses his thoughts and secrets, admits that he loves to engage in murders in his spare 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 an insane psychopath with a craving for violence, cannibalism and necrophilia. Like any high-class person who is ridiculed in the film, Patrick carefully monitors his appearance: he regularly exercises, pays great attention to the choice of wardrobe and even such trifles as a business card or pen for writing.
The greatest duality of Patrick’s personality is expressed in his attitude towards other people and issues of society. So, he criticizes his friends for anti-Semitic jokes, is an ardent opponent of racism, economic inequality – but this is just another costume that he puts on himself.
Greed and hypocrisy are the main components of the personality of the protagonist. Patrick has a very peculiar sense of humor, where he makes fun of his miserable existence. It is in these rare moments that you can see how Bateman really feels about himself. An absurd sense of humor is the cry of Patrick’s soul, invisible to others, a manifestation of the depression in which he is mired.
With a pronounced dualism in 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: listening to popular music to imitate the musical taste of the townsfolk, watching pornography to learn how to make love, renting horror films to learn how to kill. Patrick’s personality is a collective image of popular culture and an attempt to imitate the social environment.
Murders Fiction or Reality? “American Psycho” ending explained
There is no doubt that Patrick Bateman is an absolute lunatic, but the big question at the end of American Psycho is whether he is a serial killer or just a sadist with extreme delusions and a vivid imagination. Our position is that Bateman actually killed a lot of people throughout the movie, but there is one exception: he didn’t actually kill Paul Allen.
In fact, such a conclusion can be drawn simply by taking all the evidence presented in the film at face value. Not only is Harold’s claim that he just saw Paul Allen in London and the no-murder apartment, but there’s also an investigation led by Detective Donald Kimball (William Dafoe).
For most of the film, it looks like Bateman is about to be caught killing Allen, but then Kimball drops the case after discovering that the protagonist has an alibi. How did it happen? Because Bateman never killed Allen, he just made it all up.
It is firmly established throughout the film that the protagonist of “American Psycho” has an obsession and extreme hatred for Paul Allen.
What we see playing out with the newspaper, the cape and the ax is just an extremely vivid false reality. It even makes sense that Bateman could have heard about Allen’s trip to London and incorporated it into his fantasy through the outgoing answering machine message he leaves.
Admittedly, there is some ambiguity about the other deaths as well, and while I believe he killed a large number of people (such as the homeless man played by Reg E. Cathy and prostitutes), it is interesting to note that the film also makes viewers feel great doubts about the extent of Bateman’s crimes.
The reason the entire third act is so important to understanding the American Psycho ending is because it establishes that we see the world through the protagonist’s eyes and nothing can be trusted. The ATM doesn’t actually flash the “Feed me stray cat” message, and Bateman’s run from the cops certainly escalates to the point where you start to question even the smallest details of reality.
Again, this is just his psychotic imagination running wild. The extent to which this idea can be applied to the rest of the film depends on individual viewers, but it can fluctuate both ways.
Ultimately, the beauty of the American Psycho ending isn’t whether Patrick Bateman killed zero people, just a few homeless people, or everyone he listed on his answering machine (with the exception of Paul Allen). A more significant conclusion must be present in the satire in which Bateman admits his terrible crimes and no one takes him seriously.
Not only does he live in a completely superficial existence where “the inside doesn’t matter,” but he’s driven to the point where he’s become a mystery even to himself, and what he’s really sure of is that he wants to inflict his inner pain on others. .
Our interpretation of the ending of American Psycho is far from the only opinion that viewers have, and based on our position, you can probably piece together a major alternative theory: Patrick Bateman actually killed everyone, including Paul Allen.
To believe this, you just have to go with the flow when it comes to the aforementioned fantasies and delusions presented in the film’s third act – but there’s an argument to be made. How? The key is in the film’s deep, deep satire.
As shown by the fact that the other characters consistently don’t recognize Patrick Bateman throughout the film, the protagonist of “American Psycho” is portrayed as nothing more than a face in a crowd of yuppies. His intense desperation has effectively made him invisible, with his work, his Valentino suits and his Oliver Peoples glasses serving as his camouflage.
He is so inconspicuous that he can arrange murders in the center of New York and leave without being noticed by anyone. And again, his high status does not allow anyone to believe in his rather outrageous story of death and pogroms.
As for Paul Allen’s “murder” specifically, this exact same satirical explanation could also explain Bateman’s meeting with his lawyer in the film’s final scene.
Throughout the film, Allen is presented as something more than a protagonist, but it is possible that others also perceive him as simply another person in the Bateman family, who is easily confused with someone else who has the same sense of fashion and career.
This is a stretch – so it’s not our main theory – but it’s possible that Harold had just dined in London with someone he thought was Paul Allen, while the real Paul had disappeared into the bath in Hell’s Kitchen (as Bateman suggested in his recognition).
Where this theory really fails, however, is in regards to the status of Paul Allen’s apartment at the end of the film. Some might argue that the place looks so sterile that perhaps Bateman unknowingly did the cleaning himself, but that doesn’t explain the realtor’s presence and her apparent ignorance of who Paul Allen is.
This fact is of great importance to theories that Bateman actually killed his nemesis.
“American Psycho” explained by director
In what could perhaps be seen as the biggest twist with American Psycho’s ending, writer/director Mary Harron and co-writer Guinevere Turner actually went on record that – in hindsight – they didn’t like how the movie ended.
This is because they think the ending is actually too ambiguous and they don’t like the fact that people walk away from the story wondering if it was just a dream. They want to clear things up: Patrick Bateman is definitely a serial killer.
During an interview with Charlie Rose a few years ago, Harron addressed the controversy over the end of American Psycho, and she explained that it was never her intention to try to force viewers to rethink the death and murder that occurred throughout the film.
Instead, the problem was that she felt she couldn’t live up to the suspense of the original novel’s ending and didn’t make the point of the film clear enough.
One thing that I consider my failure is that people keep having doubts after watching it, thinking it’s all a dream. I never planned this. All I wanted was for the movie to be as ambiguous as the book. I think this is my failure in the final scene, because I just put the accents wrong. I should have presented everything more clearly. It seems that all this was in his head, but, as far as I understand, this is not so.
In the Blu-ray/DVD commentary, Guinevere Turner also explains that the reality of the film certainly gets more vivid as the story progresses, but instead of assuming that Patrick Bateman doesn’t actually kill anyone, one should just keep it in mind. that it’s all just a point of view that we’re looking at. In essence, what we see is mostly real, but there are some superficial changes in detail.
She explains (via IMDb):
As the movie progresses, what you see starts to happen, it’s what goes on in his head. So when he shoots a car and it blows up, even he’s like “Huh?” for a second. because even he begins to believe that his perception of reality cannot be correct. As he goes crazy, what you actually see gets more and more distorted and hard to understand, but that means he really kills all these people, it’s just that he’s probably not dressed as well. it’s probably not smooth as he perceives it, prostitutes probably weren’t that hot, etc. etc. It’s just Bateman’s fantasy world.
“American Psycho” interpretation
In the film, the director changed the ending of the eponymous work by Bret Easton Ellis. The ending is more open. In the film, Mary Harron questioned the reality of the inhuman murders allegedly committed by the protagonist. He learns that he did not actually commit the murders, only in his imagination.
In the book, the ending is different – after all the events, Bateman does not know how to continue living, because he ceases to enjoy violence.
The idea of the illusory nature of material values is far from new. However, the presentation of this idea in the film “American Psycho” is undoubtedly unique. The creative team deserves admiration and praise for their fine work.