Food, drink, film and other random thoughts from The Lone Star State.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Dostoevsky Foreshadowing

The Machinist

I like movies that change your opinion of an actor, director, writer, etc. Take, for example, Christian Bale. He is a good looking man in my opinion, so I've never complained about having to look at him for 2 hours. As an actor, fairly good; I liked him in Batman Begins and Equilibrium but these were not award winning performances. After seeing this movie, I had to bump him up a category.

Bale, at 185 pounds was looking buff in Equilibrium(2002) and again for Batman Begins(2005) but in between he went down to 120 pounds for The Machinist(2004). 65 pounds?? Sheesh, I barely recognized his bony, hollow face. I think that amount of weight loss is record for a particular role. Who is he trying to be, Robert De Niro?

Before you rent this one, be aware that it is a very dark film. Netflix labels it as a 'thriller' but I'm going to put it in the psychological suspense category. It has a very Hitchcock-esque feeling, even the soundtrack mimics Hitchcock with a side of creepy 1950's sci-fi sound.

What happens when you do something so wrong that you cannot process the guilt? Thats easy, its kinda like Fight Club, you create an alter ego, fabricate a different version of reality, then convince yourself that the alter ego and new version of reality are correct. But what happens when even this starts to wear thin and the guilt still rears it ugly, persistent head? Again, this is easy, the line between reality and insanity start to blur; you start to question who you are and what is real.

Trevor (Bale) is in this situation. The movie opens with Trevor disposing of a body rolled up in a rug. You are not given the identity of the body until later but remember the line between real and fabricated is a little blurry; keep an open mind. In the last 15 minutes you will be whacked over the head with the truth and you will absolutely not see it coming. In the sytle of Memento, the film does an excellent job of suspension of disbelief only to pull the rug out from under you in the end. Once you recover you will be able to retrofit the details from the first 90 minutes and everything will make sense.

This film is thick with reference and symbolism as a way to foreshadow. As soon as I saw Trevor reading the book, The Idiot by Dostoevsky, I knew what was in store. The Idiot is about an honest, straight-forward man who is constantly battling the corruption and deception of others; the ending of the book is completely unexpected, much like the ending of this movie. Later in The Machinist, we see a sign titled Crime and Punishment, another Dostoevsky book, this one is about a guilty man trying to convince himself of his innocence. More brilliant foreshadowing. It gives you a feeling for the development of Trevor's psyche; from believing that he is innocent to knowing he isn't but still trying to convince himself otherwise.

IHMO, this is Bale's best work. I'm sure the short jaunt into anorexia helped with the pained, tortured expressions but there is one scene with him evaluating himself in the bathroom mirror that I can still recall in chilling, frame-by-frame detail.



Blogger The Persian said...

I saw the trailer to this movie about 6 months before release to theatres. After that I would check the official site regularly to find out when It was coming out. It never played at any local theatres so I had to buy it off ebay. I wasn't dissapointed, incredible performance, and his discipline in losing that weight was just amazing. This was so very well done. Nobody I know has even heard about it, so I just got a big ass grin to see your review buddy!

4:46 PM

Blogger Jim said...

Noone I know has heard of it either and I think this might be one I add to the collection too!

Great Jim's think alike :)

10:11 PM


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