Blood or sobe?

Mary Harron spoke with "American Psycho" made from a book about the 80s a movie in the 80s and about much more

Between the movie title, red drips through the opening sequence. Whose blood it may be? Choices can be made by those who read Bret Easton Ellis’ novel "American Psycho" has read. In it, Wall Street executive Patrick Bateman murders and tortures his way through early ’80s New York City. A 27-year-old yuppie who lives in the same penthouse as Tom Cruise, has Cerruti suits in his closet, the latest Phil Collins CDs next to his stereo and the cut-off heads of his victims in his refrigerator. But the film blood belongs to none of them. What flies through the picture is red berry sauce for a buffet of the finest nouvelle cuisine.

Director Mary Harron sets her adaptation apart from Ellis’s work with a convincing balance of aestheticized horror and irony. Published in 1991, it was perhaps the most widely received and controversial book of the 1990s in the U.S. For pages, Ellis describes how Bateman carefully combines his clothes to suit yuppie tastes: Ralph Lauren, Bergdorf Goodman, Brooks Brothers, Hugo Boss, Joseph Abbound. We also learn in detail what Bateman uses to torture: from axe to lighter, drill, nail gun to his bare hands, with which he rubs the belly of a prostitute.

The same tools are seen in the film, but not what Bateman does with them. The horror takes place in the viewer’s mind, and perhaps only in Bateman’s mind. A room he left full of corpses is immaculately female and empty a few days later. his confessions are laughed at by his yuppie colleagues. Is Bateman insane, or is it his environment? What Ellis wrote with a sledgehammer, Harron hints at.

For a long time, no one dared to adapt it for film. At first it seems strange that now Harron of all people has done the job, who in her debut film "I Shot Andy Warhol" described the role of women in the alternative scene of the 60s in a very differentiated and precise way. In "American Psycho" women are defined by their function, which is similar to that of a cigar: to show it to their friends. In addition, women are still good for sex – and in Bateman’s case, torture. Harron adopts this perspective from Ellis with the same aim, to show the cruelty of the 80s-"Greed is Good"-years. What the Reagonomics – reduction of income tax, financed by quasi-abolition of any support for the socially weak – practiced on the state level, Bateman does in private, stabs a homeless man, takes with the right of the stronger, which means spab – even if it is the brain of a girl.

Harron’s film adaptation is more subtle than the original. It does not mount the black-and-white causality of individual physical violence as a consequence of social psychological violence to which Ellis’s novel can be reduced. A third level of understanding becomes necessary simply because most of Bateman’s violent acts are seen only as sketches in his diary. The question of whether a film is playing in Bateman’s head or whether his desperate attempts to attract attention are reality remains open.

Harron thus puts brutality of Ellis template into perspective. Yes, she almost makes a black comedy out of it: the blood that turns out to be Sobe in the opening sequence is a macabre reference to Bateman’s cannibalistic lusts. Harron is certainly not ironizing to get the film into theaters at all, as she has been accused of doing in the U.S. Rather, she deliberately makes Bateman, the American psycho, a joke. He is not given a background that could give his actions a real motive – in the logic of a Hollywood thriller. Unlike Ellis, however, Harron does not use this as a means to portray him even more as a product of an inhuman society. Rather, Bateman thus becomes a punchline, a parody of a fictional character in the style of the "Scream"-Trilogy.

In doing so, Harron has managed a film adaptation that goes far beyond the original by extending the description to the present day. The cold, cocaine-covered superficiality of the 1980s has long since been replaced by the pseudo-spirituality of an esctasy-fueled "We all love each other and the whole world is one" Vulgar pantheism outdated. Phil Collins "Sudio" brings embarrassment red to the face, and characters like Bateman are anecdotes of pop culture fandom. Bateman is also a spab today, precisely because the parallel between greed in the form of money clips and tortured prostitutes is recognized. The difference with 1988 is that today the laughter about Bateman’s confession may sound more resigned.

Start: 7. September; USA 2000; 101 min.; R: Mary Harron; D: Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Chloe Sevigny

American Psycho was screened as opening film at Fantasy Filmfest.

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