The establishing scene of American Psycho shows Patrick Bateman, performed to chilling effect by Christian Bale, meticulously making use of beauty products while narrating his intense morning recurring. This interest to his ideal physical appearance guidelines at Bateman’s obsession with shallow materialism and floor-degree perfection that permeates the movie. But because the story descends into madness, murder, and mayhem, the audience is left questioning – while does an obsession spill over into utter insanity?

Directed by means of Mary Harron and primarily based on Bret Easton Ellis’ arguable 1991 novel, American Psycho offers a scathing critique of Nineteen Eighties Wall Street excess and greed. On the floor, Patrick Bateman seemingly has all of it – a glamorous fiancée, dressmaker clothes, an elite social circle, and a profitable task at a mergers and acquisitions corporation.

However, beneath this manufactured charm lies a bubbling rage and blood-thirsty hunger for violence. While his materialistic obsessions are evident from the outset, the descent into his sadistic fantasies is more gradual. This blurring of reality makes the viewer almost empathize with Bateman’s yearning for more in life than just a “hard body and perfect business card.” Yet any sympathy vanishes as his compulsive fantasies manifest into gruesome late-night murders.

So, what drives Patrick Bateman down this dark path? And can his strained grip on reality still constitute insanity, given the twisted social values of his world? Watching American psycho full movie shows that his macabre fantasies and psychotic breaks reflect his splintered identity and tenuous mental state.

The shallow obsession of Wall Street’s elite

Obsession lies at the cornerstone of American Psycho. Bateman exhibits obsessive tendencies in virtually all aspects of his lifestyle – his intensive fitness regime, designer clothing labels, and elite restaurant reservations. On one level, this underscores the empty materialism of Wall Street yuppies constantly trying to outdo each other.

However, in Bateman’s case, his obsession with perfection stems from a darker impulse and lack of identity. Throughout the film, he confuses characters’ names or appropriates someone else’s identity entirely. “I simply am not there,” he laments at one point. Without a true self, Bateman obsesses over surface appearances as a hollow distraction.

When his polished public facade begins crumbling behind closed doors, the only way for Bateman to feel alive and self-actualized is through violence. His obsessive rituals preceding each murder are depicted almost sensually – he meticulously lays out his tools while naked in a clinical apartment used solely to indulge his darkest fantasies.

This intoxicating high descends into an uncontrollable mania, which intensifies throughout the film as the murders get more horrific. As Bateman gradually loses control of both his violent urges and tenuous grip on reality, the viewer starts questioning the root cause of his obsessive madness.

The blurring of fantasy and reality

Part of what makes American Psycho so effectively unnerving is the blending of Bateman’s surreal fantasies and the mundane reality unfolding publicly around him. This leaves the audience increasingly unable to differentiate between truth and illusion.

Bateman exhibits dissociative tendencies and hallucinations associated with psychosis and schizophrenia. He has vivid fantasies about murdering colleagues over dinner– before the film cuts back to them sitting unharmed, obliviously prattling about business cards.

So, which scenarios occupy truth versus warped illusion? This merging of brutal violence with banal reality better represents the chaos inside Bateman’s fractured mind than any realistic plot line could achieve. Watching the full movie shows that his macabre fantasies and psychotic breaks reflect his splintered identity and tenuous mental state.

However, while the murders undoubtedly happened in Bateman’s mind, did he actually act on these unrelenting violent impulses?

The film’s chilling ending leaves this question disturbingly unresolved. Ultimately, Bateman confesses his rampant violence to his lawyer – who mistakes him for someone else entirely. While darkly funny, this points to the notion that within 1980s Wall Street culture, such cruelty fails to set Bateman apart from the norm.

His unthinkable confessions fall on deaf ears not because they didn’t happen – but because self-absorbed power and greed rendered others incapable of caring about such routine barbarism. After all, as Bateman himself observes, “there are no more barriers to cross.”

So, while undoubtedly mentally unstable, Bateman’s unrelenting violent obsession went unnoticed or simply tolerated due to an amoral society consumed by ambition and vanity. This makes his seeming “insanity” a pointed social commentary as much as an individual psychological disorder.

The nature of insanity

While never excusing his monstrous acts, American Psycho provokes relevant questions about the nature of sanity– both Bateman’s own and the society that breeds his pathology.

There’s no question Bateman exhibits all the classic symptoms of psychosis and antisocial personality disorders. He has delusions of grandeur, is fixated on his own intellect and status, zooms through emotions like irritation and anger before landing abruptly at smug satisfaction, and displays a chronic lack of empathy. This all indicates mental illness.

However, the film portrays 1980s Wall Street culture full of ruthless, egocentric men devoid of morality. Against this backdrop, Bateman’s deprecation of homeless people and obsession with elite social status fails to raise any red flags amongst his peers.

Within this greedy, soulless context, Bateman’s insanity becomes normalized. It is only behind closed doors that the depraved severity of his sickness is revealed. But this, too, remains shielded from a society too self-involved to probe beneath his charming facade.

So, while Bateman exhibits twisted psychological compulsions, can it truly be labeled insanity in a world that tacitly permits such delusions? Harron poses challenging questions about the nature of madness – is it defined in and of itself, or only against the backdrop of what a society deems acceptable?

A startling character study

Whether a psychological thriller, slasher film, or social satire – American Psycho is undoubtedly shocking viewing; upon its 2000 release, many critics denounced the graphic violence. While very confronting, the extent of cruelty has a purpose – forcibly confronting the viewer with the true ugliness bubbling under a glamorous exterior.

The violence in American Psycho is depicted not for shock value alone. Instead, it serves as a metaphor for the simmering madness within Bateman. His mental state fragments so severely that taking a chainsaw to a victim’s victim’s body, for example, literally represents his fraying psyche splintering beyond repair.

While highly polarizing, American Psycho remains such an acclaimed cult classic precisely due to its unrelenting take on issues still relevant today – ambition versus humanity, greed over empathy. Bateman embodies the very worst of society, forcing the viewer to question our own moral compass when confronted with such social decay.

At its core, American Psycho is an intense, masterfully delivered character study. Bale’s Patrick Bateman sears into public memory as the charmingly deranged face of corporate greed and toxic masculinity. Through him, the film reflects the dark heart of a civilization obsessed with status over sanity and money over morality. This haunting indictment of America’s late-capitalist soul explains why American Psycho continues chilling audiences twenty years on.

If you enjoyed Christian Bale’s gripping and controversial performance as Patrick Bateman, you may also want to watch the romantic drama After 2023. This film stars Josephine Langford as Tessa, a dedicated student who starts questioning her orderly life after a fateful encounter with the brooding and rebellious Hardin Scott, played by Hero Fiennes Tiffin. While far less graphic than “American Psycho,” “After” explores similarly complex themes around identity, perception, and dark impulses hiding behind a polite facade.