Hypnagogic

Chopping a film scene into bits

Watching this scene in American psycho

Where Bateman murders Paul Allen we can learn alot by viewing it three different ways.

Once with the sound off just watching the camera work.

We start from Batemans perspective looking down and Allen who is center frame. Cut to an uncomfortably close closeup of the CD that Allen looks up at, this reflects the theme of consumerism and yuppie culture that is present in the film, we don’t need to look this close at it but we are because it’s a status symbol. Cut back too looking at Allen but now we are closer to him coming slightly from his side. He is no longer looking at us, he’s unaware of the danger that he’s in. Cut to a mid shot of Bateman, we are on his eye level he is distant, not close, we aren’t invited to understand or empathize with him, and we aren’t looking down on him. He walks to the right and the camera pans to follow him, we are now at a slightly lower angel of him, he’s becoming more of a threat, but he is still distant. Cut to a wide shot of the room as Bateman leaves we are looking down on Allen again. The quickness of the cut from the pan is disorienting, and it shows how Bateman is circling Allen like a predatory animal. Cut to a low shot in the bathroom showing Bateman pick up a clear plastic coat. It’s mostly black in here compared to the pristine white out in the main room, back here where Allen can’t see there is no facade of good intentions and friendliness. The camera quickly pans up to Batemans face as he puts the coat on on. It’s becoming more frantic as Bateman lets his mask of niceness slip. Close up on a glass with a pill bottle next to it, Bateman takes a sip from the glass, but he doesn’t take any pills. Cut back to Batemans face he has no emotion now and he moves to leave the bathroom and picks up an axe. Cut to the wide shot of the main room. Bateman dances backwards into the room, concealing the axe. Allen looks at him and then looks away. Bateman backs up a bit behind Allen. Close up on the axe head by Batemans feet. Cut back to the wide shot as Bateman buttons up the coat, even as he is about to commit a murder he cares more about not ruining his nice suit. The suit is more important to him than Allens life. Cut to a mid shot of Allens back looking down on him, we are in Batemans perspective. Cut to a close up of Batemans face as he smirks. Cut to a mid shot in front of Allen who is looking back at Bateman. Bateman walks past Allen twords the camera, and it cuts to a shot looking up at Batemans back walking away, we are now in Allens perspective. Bateman leans on the stereo shelf and makes a cartoony hand gesture and faces cut to a wide shot behind Allen looking at his back and Bateman leaning against the stereo shelf, we are now looking from where the axe is. Bateman does a little dance and walks towards the camera and the camera pans right to follow him, lingering on Allens back for a moment. Cut to a medium shot looking slightly up at Bateman who picks up the axe and starts gesturing with it. We are in Allens perspective Bateman is talking too and threatening us. He lifts the axe, cut to a close up looking down at Allen, his back is to us and to Bateman, he turns at the last second and screams. Cut to a close up of Bateman as he brings the axe down on Allen, blood splatters on his face he moves past the camera, cut to a close up of blood spilling on the floor. Cut to a close up looking up at Bateman Yelling and pulling back to swing again. The camera pans up and down trying unsteadily to keep track of Batmans face, but he’s moving too fast and too frantically. He swings down again and again then he lets go of the axe and the camera can again train on his face as he steps forward bloody and a little tired. He starts to take off the plastic coat. There is no emotion on his face. He walks left and the camera pans to follow him as he sits down. He goes to hold the bloody side of his face but he doesn’t. He pulls out a cigar still looking at where Allens body is. Cut to a wide shot looking up from the floor over Allens body at Bateman as he lights his cigar and leans back.

Once with the sound on and your eyes closed.

Bateman asks Allen about hughie lewis and the news. There is no background music, only ambient room noise. Allen says he doesn’ care about them, but Bateman starts to rant about them. Allen doesn’t respond. Bateman continues to rant about them in the other room, he raises his voice so he can still be heard. We hear him pick up a glass and drink from it. silence as he goes to re enter the other room. Allen doesn’t respond because he doesn’t really care, but Bateman keeps going and talking about it. We hear the axe thunk down. Allen asks Bateman a question, his speech is slurred, he’s clearly drunk. He asks why there is news paper on the floor and why Bateman is wearing a raincoat, but he’s laughing and unconcerned. He can’t see the red flags. Bateman turns on some Hughie Lewis and the news music. It’s diegetic, the characters can hear it too. All the sounds are diegetic and there is no score in this scene. Bateman keeps ranting about the music, he gets more passionate, then says “hey Paul” then starts screaming. We can hear the axe hit Allen and Bateman screams curses at him as the axe thunks again and again. He screams and grunts. sounds of the axe hitting the floor and Allen are heard. The axe is thrown right has the high point of the song plays. Bateman is silent for the rest of the scene as the music keeps playing. we can hear the lighter click.

and Finally watching it with both audio and visual. The audio and the visual work together to build suspense, Bateman is framed like an unsympathetic predatory andimal and Allen as completely clueless. It plays the classic Hitchcock ‘bomb under the table’ suspect tactic by showing us where the axe while Allen is completely clueless and we just have to sit and wait for it to be used. The use of the pop song adds juxtaposition that’s followed through with in the rest of the movie its the pointless consumerism thinly masking a dangerous murderer. The lives of people have about as much weight (or less in Batemans eyes) as material goods.

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