Dive into the enigmatic depths of Mary Harron’s 2000 psychological thriller, American Psycho. Starring Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, a wealthy investment banker with a penchant for violence and a disquieted psyche set in 1980s New York City.
This iconic film has generated an expansive dialogue from viewers attempting to interpret its ambiguous ending – which is why we are here to provide you with further insight!
Please note that this article contains major spoilers for the movie “American Psycho.”
The film concludes with an open-to-interpretation finale, leaving viewers to question whether Patrick Bateman’s murders were real or imagined. The ending serves as a critique of the superficial and materialistic society of the 1980s, emphasizing the themes of conformity, loss of individuality, and the blurring of reality and fantasy.
Bateman’s Spiral Into Madness
The film follows Bateman on a journey of psychological decline, becoming more and more removed from reality as he sinks deeper into madness. He brutally murders several people – acquaintances to prostitutes alike- while maintaining the appearance of an affluent investment banker’s life. As his mental wellness further deteriorates, his violent tendencies increase; eventually, it reaches its climax in a chaotic shoot-out where he kills multiple police officers.
The Murders: Real Or Imagined?
One of the central questions surrounding the ending of “American Psycho” is whether the murders committed by Bateman actually occurred or were merely figments of his twisted imagination. This ambiguity is heightened by several key scenes in the movie, such as when Bateman returns to the apartment where he had previously killed and dismembered several victims, only to find it spotlessly clean and devoid of any evidence of the crimes.
Moreover, when Bateman confesses his murderous acts to his lawyer, Harold Carnes (played by Stephen Bogaert), the lawyer dismisses the confession as a joke, insisting that he had just had lunch with one of Bateman’s supposed victims, Paul Allen (played by Jared Leto), in London. This revelation raises doubts about the reality of Bateman’s actions and whether he is an unreliable narrator, further blurring the line between fantasy and reality.
The Role Of Materialism And Conformity
In “American Psycho”, Bret Easton Ellis masterfully and poignantly critiques the yuppie culture of 1980s America. His characters, namely Patrick Bateman and his colleagues, embody shallow materialism and adherence to conformity that dominates their lives. The unoriginality of their existence so deeply pervades that they are often mistaken for someone else; seen when even those closest to him confuse Batemen with banker Marcus Halberstram on multiple occasions.
This theme of conformity and the loss of individuality is also reflected in Bateman’s desire to fit into his social circle, despite his growing disdain for the people around him. His violent acts can be seen as a twisted attempt to assert his individuality and break free from the constraints of his superficial existence.
The Ending Explained
In the film’s final scene, Bateman sits in a bar with his colleagues, contemplating the events that have unfolded. He admits to the audience in a voiceover that his confession has been futile, as nothing has changed, and he remains trapped in his shallow and meaningless life. This conclusion is open to interpretation, allowing viewers to form their own opinions about the reality of Bateman’s actions and the true nature of his character.
One could surmise that the killings were nothing more than a product of Bateman’s imagination, demonstrating his inner turmoil and need to break away from the shallow lifestyle he lives. This is bolstered by evidence such as his lawyer supposedly meeting Paul Allen in London and the pristine state of Bateman’s apartment following these supposed murders. In this instance, Bateman’s confession would ultimately be fruitless because no real crimes had been committed; instead, he was confined within an illusionary world dominated by materialism.
Another interpretation suggests that the murders did occur, but the world Bateman inhabits is so focused on maintaining appearances and preserving the status quo that the truth is simply ignored or swept under the rug. This would imply that Bateman’s confession is futile because his actions, no matter how heinous, have no consequences in a society where superficiality reigns supreme. It also highlights the film’s critique of the shallow and narcissistic culture of the 1980s, suggesting that this environment enables and even encourages such monstrous behavior.
A third possibility is that some of the murders were real, while others were imagined or exaggerated by Bateman’s increasingly unstable mind. This interpretation allows for a blending of the two previous theories, acknowledging that Bateman’s mental state and the superficiality of his surroundings both play a role in shaping his actions and their consequences (or lack thereof).
By leaving the finale of American Psycho open to interpretation, viewers are encouraged to grapple with its complex themes. It is left up to one’s own conclusion as to whether Patrick Bateman’s atrocities were fact or fiction. However, this ambiguous end serves as a powerful reflection on human nature and society that can spur such behavior.