A 2004 movie starring Christian Bale
Professors Susan Turner and Julie True
September 14, 2011
The Machinist, a 2004 psychological thriller, impressed me by the performance of Christian Bale. To prepare for the movie, he lost nearly seventy pounds to accurately depict the main character, Trevor Resnik. The film aptly portrays the possible extreme physiologic effects that psychological trauma can induce when left untreated.
As the film begins, it presents a blurred image of Trevor through the rain streaked window of his apartment as he is rolling a body in a large tan carpet. He then walks to the window to light a cigarette, displaying bruises and cuts all over his emaciated and haunted face. The film cuts to him unloading the rolled carpet from the back of his pickup truck. A pair of white-sneakered feet dangles from one end of the carpet. He struggles to carry the carpet to a waterfront and tosses it down a flight of steps into the ocean. A guard carrying a yellow flashlight walks up to Trevor and asks, “Who are you?” Trevor is then shown back in his apartment, washing his hands with bleach in his bathroom sink. The picture pans back. The same yellow flashlight the guard was holding is now lying on his coffee table. Trevor notices a yellow Post-It note on the wall behind him with “WHO ARE YOU?” written on it.
The film alternately illustrates how Trevor has been deteriorating, both physically and mentally, by shifting through scenes with his call-girl girlfriend, his apartment, his work, and with a waitress at a diner. It shows him in his bed with a call-girl, Stevie, and presents a graphic image of his withered body. He is shown again with her later in the film where he states that he just wants to sleep and that he hasn’t slept in a year. Stevie asks Trevor if he is going to rescue her from her life, that she would give it up for the right guy. His growing paranoia throughout the film causes him to doubt her, believing that a co-worker is her ex-boyfriend, and that both of them are conspiring against Trevor.
Trevor has a routine of having late night coffee and pie at an airport diner. The wall clock is display a time that interchanges between 1:30:01 and 1:30:02, without ever progressing. This time theme reoccurs several more times throughout the film during his interactions with the waitress from the diner, where the time is always 1:30 AM. He enjoys the casual conversations with the waitress, Maria, and eventually goes out on a date with her and her son, Nicholas. Near the end of the film, he returns to the diner to discover that there is no Maria that works there. His usual waitress declares that Trevor just quietly sits there staring at his coffee, night after night. Trevor vehemently denies the waitress’ claim, alleging that she is ‘in on it.’
At his apartment, Trevor develops a habit of using Post-It notes to leave reminders for himself. He is troubled by a note that appears on his fridge, depicting a “hang man” game with a six letter word puzzle. His attempt to solve this puzzle progresses from ‘m-o-t-h-E-R’ – blaming his psychosis on the loss of his mother, then to ‘m-I-L-l-E-R’ – believing that the worker he injured is plotting revenge against him, and finally to ‘k-I-L-L-E-R’ – where he finally remembers what happened a year ago that led to his insomnia and physical condition.
The change in Trevor’s physical appearance has raised concern with his co-workers and bosses at a machine shop, National Machine. Trevor’s distraction from a new co-worker, Ivan, causes him to back into a machine that another employee, Tommy Miller, was working on. The machine turns on and malfunctions, tearing off Tommy’s left arm. Trevor blames the new guy, Ivan, for the distraction and is told that there is no Ivan working at National Machine. Trevor’s deteriorating form and behavior turns...