15 January 2009

American Psycho, the un-Filmbook

About a month ago Rich of fourfour wrote he had read a book that contained so foul, he actually had to put the book down -- a new experience for him, and unlikely given his love for gory horror movies. I am not a fan of gory horror movies, but I thought of myself having a pretty high tolerance for things written that I could not watch onscreen. That was before I read AMERICAN PSYCHO, the first book where I actually had to skip over paragraphs because I couldn't stomach what was being described.

I knew some general things about the plot -- I mean, it's not called AMERICAN SWEET INOFFENSIVE GUY -- but the depths of the depravity to which Patrick Bateman, a young Turk in the financial world with a secret life, sinks are so specifically detailed I couldn't look away. It could be argued that I didn't actually read the whole book since I skipped maybe 5 to 10 pages' worth of description, but after the first time I wanted to put the book down, but I didn't.

The reason I didn't was because I thought Easton Ellis's subject and the way he tackles it was genuinely interesting, if occasionally foul. Bateman's narration that offended me so much in some places indicts him in others as a participant in this uber-materialistic society where everything has a price tag, and the things that cannot be measured by money are effectively worthless. Patrick is obsessed with the language of this materialistic culture, so the words he chooses are crucial for his own vision of a completely self-actualized man, one who believes he has eliminated the impulse to guilt. It's a bleak vision but one clearly identifiable with our universe. But I can't give a wholly positive review to a book that made me so sick to read.

Anyway, all this is just to say that even though I have heard of how good it is, I took "American Psycho" off my Netflix queue. If you have seen it, feel free to tell me if it's as gross as the book, or how director Mary Harron found a way to adapt what I can only imagine would, in its original form, get an NC-17 for violence. I don't know that I can subject myself to it.


Amanda said...

Oh I've heard the book is good. My brother who was a criminal justice major thought it was an interesting psychologically. But DON'T watch the movie. Disgusting. I love Christian Bale but I just did NOT like the movie. Those parts that you skipped in the book are totally visualized in the movie. Bleah.

ap said...

The movie seriously disturbed me. Christian Bale is chilling. It didn't help that I watched it late at night. I also didn't understand the ending though maybe I would have if I read the book.

Ivan said...

I strongly suggest you watch the movie after reading the book. The movie turns the violence and sex into an over the top joke. Seriously it goes beyond graphic and becomes cartoonish. There is also a change to the ending which is very very interesting.

Ellen said...

Amanda - I love Christian Bale, too, which was one of the reasons I was still thinking about watching it despite the ick factor.

AP - You were brave to watch it late at night.

Ivan - When you say over the top, do you mean like "Kill Bill Part I" over the top or "Hot Fuzz" over the top? I think you can guess which one I can better deal with.

Liz said...

The movie is much, much less violent and gory than the book. The parts that you skipped in the book are not totally visualized in the movie.

I guess it's more like Kill Bill over the top than Hot Fuzz, but really a great deal of the violence is implied/takes place off screen, and isn't filmed. It's not like a horror movie where you see a weapon entering someone's body. It's more like, shot of weapon, spray of blood. It's still a violent movie but I thought the book was a great deal scarier and gorier.