In the film American Psycho consumerism, materialism, money, mass consumption, control, and power are melded together to create the character of Patrick Bateman, a psychotic killer. The 2001 film based on Bret Easton Ellis' 1991 novel takes a satirical viewpoint on the subject matter at hand. The character of Bateman (played by Christian Bale) is dependent on the current trends of the late 1980s, and upon Brett Easton Ellis' reaction to his experience on Wall Street. Ellis explains that Wall Street guys are "all about status and surface" (Simpson, 149). The film juxtaposes this asinine banality of surface and status with extremely violent killings. The combination of a Wall Street yuppie with a serial killer allows for a comment on what living in America in the late '80s was all about. But his American dream doesn't live up to its promise, given the mere fact that he is a serial killer and cannot hold back his urges. He has everything he could ever want but is impeded by his urge to kill.
To fully understand the situation of Bateman, one has to think of his existence only in the time frame of the story -- nothing before and nothing after. The instances where Patrick Bateman talks about his mother in the book are kept out of the movie. He only speaks of his father momentarily when talking about how he got the job at Pierce and Pierce. Bateman has no direct contact with his father or mother throughout the film. His supposed engagement to Evelyn almost seems non-existent and only for show. The one scene where they are in bed together was cut from the film. It is hard to define who Patrick Bateman is, so it is better to look at what he is, or what his purpose is. Bateman is merely a vehicle for the story, or a messenger, to show the viewer the absurdity and excess of the 1980s. Bateman is like a prism for the viewer to peer through during the duration of the film.
Identity, in relation to Patrick Bateman, is lacking or non-existent. He is constantly being mistaken for other people, yet doesn't care to correct the misconceptions. Paul Allen (Paul Owen in the book) constantly calls him by the wrong name, Marcus Halberstram, but Bateman never does anything about it. There is sort of a dry comedic element to the way in which he doesn't correct them. On top of the constant case of mistaken identity is the dual role he plays throughout the film. By day he is a businessman on Wall Street, and by night he is a serial killer. As Simpson notes, "Patrick Bateman is obviously named after Norman Bates and less obviously Batman" (Simpson, 150). He is the psychotic caped crusader of the night. He tries to contain his urge, but it starts to bleed into all areas of his life. In relation to Norman Bates, there is no psychological background of his psychotic disorder. The story doesn't delve into the psyche, or psychological disorder of Patrick Bateman, the way in which Hitchcock's Psycho does with Norman Bates. He is given no past reason for the way he is, adding to the argument that he exists only in the period of the story.
The Mise-En-Scene (i.e. -- the artistic feel of the filmed elements) of two particular places directly represents Bateman's emptiness, and his want and desire to fit in. His apartment and his office best represent the character of Patrick Bateman. His office is very plain with few pictures on the walls, and his apartment is stark white and very clean. The color in the two spaces is very monochromatic. These two spaces are reflections of him because he controls these spaces, unlike any other space in rest of the film. Towards the end of the film, when Bateman has Elizabeth and Christie over at Paul Allen's apartment, Christie says, "This is nicer than your other apartment." Having been slighted by her remark, he replies with "It's not that nice." He takes pride in his apartment -- a little too much pride. Out of the two spaces he occupies, his apartment represents him the best, giving a darker side to the monochromatic look.
When the viewer is first introduced to Bateman's apartment, the camera dollies through an open space showing the stark white walls, ceiling, and carpet of the television area. There are also two black chairs and a few fixtures about. Then it cuts to a shot with the camera dollying towards the bedroom once again showing the whiteness, this time with a little more black in the bed stand. Once Bateman walks into the bathroom, the camera reveals another ominous tiled space. His kitchen is completely stainless steel, which give a sterile look to it. His apartment is more like a place to look at rather than live in. The paintings help to add to the subtle white/black contrast of the apartment. The subtle black and white binary color scheme represents his dark verses light side, his murderous side verses the empty banal Wall Street worker. The Mis-en-Scene of his apartment helps to add to his illusion of existence, and his desire to fit in. There is no comfort in this space, but he wants people to recognize his wealth and power by how nice his place is and how nice and well kept it is. It all adds to this façade, this show he puts on for himself and the viewer. The non-diegetic (i.e. -- showing instead of simply telling) classical score adds to the implication that this space is supposed to be a work of art, something Bateman is proud of.