Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Machinist (2004) Brad Anderson

This is a film starring Christian Bale as Trevor Reznik a man who has not slept in a year and begins to suffer paranoia and hallucinations brought on by this and his extreme weight loss.  He seems disfunctional in his relationships with his only close ties being to a waitress and a prostitute.

The Machinist is a jewel in the crown of psychological horror and in the art of story telling.  The film opens on Reznik trying to dispose of a body rolled in a carpet and at the point of him being discovered jumps back in time to the beginning of the tale.  There are so many elements that inspire me in this film that I will deal with them one by one.
The physicality of the film immediately puts you on edge, it is apparent that there is something very wrong with Reznik and his appearance is painful to see.  I admire the dedication that led Christian Bale to systematically starve himself for this role and the pain of it is alive on the film, he is utterly believable as a tormented soul.  His effect on the characters in the story, uneasiness among his co-workers and pity from the women are also totally understandable immersing you completely.  He looks hauntingly like victims of the holocaust or an animated corpse.
The lighting is very cold with a prolification of blues and greens giving a feeling of night closing in, you are never completely sure if it is night or day, he seems to exist in a perpetual twilight which gives you some idea of how the Reznik himself must feel.  This all adds to the claustrophobia and sense of impending threat created by the darkly lit machine shop in which he works.
The character himself seems diametrically opposed, he acts kindly showing sympathy, affection and remorse leaving large tips for both the waitress and the prostitute he visits, yet his actions speak of something else, obsessive hand washing, frantic cleaning as if Macbeth like he is trying to wash away the spots of guilt with bleach. 
There are clever clues built into the film that snowball as the story unfolds, every time he meets the waitress the time is 1.30 no matter where he is, the mysterious Ivan who causes the rapid deterioration in the mental state of Reznik drives a car with the reverse number plate of Rezniks own, phrases are repeated out of context both verbally and visually such as the theme of the split path, the road to salvation or perdition.  These clues allow you to piece together the mystery of what is happening to Trevor Reznik as he himself discovers them, you travel with him through paranoia and doubt and final revelation but never too soon, there is no easy route in the twists of the story.
This is also a moralistic tale of guilt manifest, eating away at the fabric of your being, denying you any rest until you put right the wrong and then, only then, can you rest.  A powerful modern morality play with Ivan as the Super-Ego, emaciated Reznik as the Ego and healthy Reznik as the Id.  However after all is revealed I am only left with a feeling of pity, for his torment was caused by his inability to deny his conscience and relief that he has finally managed to sleep.     

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