Christian Bale’s presentation of the grossly emaciated and psychologically-disturbed Trevor Reznik is disturbing but also fitting. Bale in The Machinist is reminiscent of Bale in American Psycho (2000)–another film that gives the viewer a wicked look into the life of a highly disturbed individual. In the case of American Psycho, the highly-disturbed individual, Patrick Bateman, is a high-powered Wall Street egoist. In The Machinist, Trevor Reznik is just a machinist in a factory–a regular guy. Both men frequent prostitutes, but Reznik’s character is revealed to have a compassionate heart, whereas Bateman, well, he’s a psycho killer with a penchant for deadly masochism.
The end of The Machinist reveals all, whereas American Psycho leaves you wondering who the “real” psycho is–Bateman, his Wall Street cadre, or maybe even the viewer. The viewer feels more fulfilled with the cathartic revelation about the source of Reznik’s year-long insomnia and ultimately his severe weight loss.
Both films delve into self-delusion as a result of psychological trauma or psychotic tendencies. The director and writer of The Machinist lead the viewer down the same rabbit hole that Trevor is plummeting in order to figure out who the mysterious Ivan character is–someone who no one else can see, but someone who still seems to reak havoc on Reznik’s mind, and even the innocent bystanders around Reznik.
The Machinist is a treatise on self-delusion, the deleterious effects of denial on the psyche, regret, and ethical responsibility. The ending of The Machinist is reminiscent of Spike Lee’s 25th Hour in that both protagonists show the viewer that they can ‘do the right thing.’
While the ending does introduce some narrative inconsistencies when looking back over the the film–the viewer must come to terms with the fact that Reznik hallucinated certain scenes, like at the amusement park–it does not diminish the overall effectiveness of the film’s message. In fact, it reinforces the main point: that Reznik’s mind was diminishing, along with his body, right in front of the viewer. And all because of self-denial, self-delusion, and regret–all concepts that each and every viewer can relate to. A powerful message overall.