In theaters 20 years ago, American Psycho is still a "must be seen" of cinema's history. Based on a novel from 1991, the movie is telling the story of Patrick Bateman, a counselor in wealth management at Paul & Pierce during the late 80's. If Patrick seems to be like all his colleagues, one thing makes him different from them: he's a psychopath. Or at least it's what he thinks. In the direction or in the acting, the movie is really good, but we'll focus on the symbolism we can observ in the movie and on Bateman's psychology.
We could sum up the movie with 4 words: money, sex, drugs and murder. It may look exaggerated regarding the finance world, but it's not that far from reality, except the murder part. Out after the 1987's crash, the book was attacking capitalism and the finance world in general back then. If the book encountered a big success when it was released, making a movie based on it was a good reminder for everyone 10 years later, this time with images, which can be more speaking to some people. The movie shows all the aspects of the finance world, where money is king and greed and envy are the main words. The concurrence is huge, and every detail has its importance, the business cards scene is a good example. And some are ready to do anything to get glory and money. Patrick Bateman is part of this people. He's just in a more critic situation than the others. He's a psychopath, capable to kill, just by jealousy. If we dont know the origin of this trouble, we are allowed to think that the finance world and lure of profit made it become worse. Apart from the finance world's mentality, the movie also shows the debauchery life the men coming from this world are living. The main character and his friends are going to restaurants where nobody can have a table yes, but on the other hand, they're going to see prostitutes, they also do drugs... They spend their money easily, and are always looking for more. All this parameters are going to influence Patrick Bateman's psychology, who's going to become crazy during the movie.
Patrick Bateman is introduced as a psychopath, but is is his real personality? A lot of elements are asking us the question, and we end doubting of the fact that Bateman really is a psychopath. By the end of the movie, he seems to be a schizophrenic who thinks he's a psychopath. Let's see all the elements that make Patrick Bateman a psychopath. First of all, he commited a lot of murders, in the movie, we can count around ten, in his on words, he could have killed 40 people. He kills by jealousy, Paul Allen because he owned the portfolio Fisher, by hate, the homeless man in the street, because they are women, the two prostitutes. His reasons to kill dont have any sense, he kills hasardly, by hate or because he can't control its murders pulses as it's the case in the end of the movie. He's also victim of outburst of anger and has more and more difficulties to control his pulses during the movie. He feels like a bloodlust, and when he commits a murder, madness takes him. But at first, this madness is just temporary, until it's more and more present, and gets out of control at the end of the movie. Patrick Bateman is a psychopath from this point of view, because of his unstable personality and his lack of emotions. He's also very well integrated to society, and is part of the wealthiest ones. His personality includes a narcissic aspect, and he's also very impulsive, plus he wants to dominate other people. We could conclude by saying that Patrick Bateman is a psychopath.
But on the other side, we could think Patrick Bateman is a schizophrenic who thinks he's a psychopath. Many elements can make us think that way. First, he tries several times to tell the others he's a psychopath, the first time in a night club, at the beginning of the movie. He also tries to tell his fiancee, his colleagues, he confesses all his crimes to his lawyer who doesn't take him seriously. He thinks it's a joke, and it's also the only moment in the movie where we can actually think he really admitted being a psychopath. In fact, all the other times he confesses his trouble, nobody listens or takes him seriously. From this point, we can wonder if he really said all this confessions or if it just happened in his head. If he never said any of his confessions, we can also wonder if he really commited all this murders. So did he really kill al this people? This question may never get an answer, but the doubt is here. During the murder scenes, there's nothing telling us he never commited them. But they tend to be very violent and almost exaggerated (the police cars exploding because of a gun, chaînes throwing...), we can doubt of their authenticity. Let's go back to the scene where he confesses everything to his lawyer. After being chased by many policemen, he hides in his office and leaves a message on his lawyer's answering machine to confess all the murders he comitted. The next day, they run into other, and the lawyer takes this as a joke, but when Bateman insists by saying he really killed all this people, the lawyer says the Bateman he knows wasn't capable to do such things. Furthermore, he mistakes Bateman with another member from Paul & Pierce, which shows than all the person from this world are the same. Finally, the initial murder, Paul Allen's, is denied by the lawyer who says he had lunch with him in London a few days before. And when Bateman commits (or not) this murder, Bateman imagines sending Allen to London so he can take away suspicions. The coincidence is huge, too huge to be one. We can think Bateman commited this murder in his head and would have tied up his plan to take away suspicions to Paul Allen's real situation.
Two possibilities appear at this point. First one would be to say Bateman did commit all this murders, that he's a psychopath,that nobody takes him seriously, and he's totally alone. The second one, more interesting, would be to say Bateman is suffering a piping schizophrenia, and he thinks he's a psychopath who kills many people. What's the objective? Seem different from other people maybe, in his head or in real life. If this solution is obvisouly not the good one, it's maybe his way to feel different from pther people, stop being mistaken with th others ans get out of the crowd. We will never have the answer to all our questions, the interpretation is free to anyone. But this movie makes us think and the main character's psychology makes us doubt of the line between hallucination and reality.