American writer William Faulkner once famously said, “People to whom sin is just a matter of words, to them salvation is just words too.” Perhaps these words are not just words meant for paper but for life itself. How many people commit sin and seek to attain salvation? How many seek to live a life without guilt while committing sins on the way? These questions, while quite difficult to answer, are perhaps best answered by the troubled Trevor Reznik in the psychological thriller ‘The Machinist’.
Directed by American writer-filmmaker Brad Anderson, ‘The Machinist’ follows the life of Trevor Reznik, a machinist who suffers from insomnia and psychological problems. This constant mental unease causes him to have continuous fights and arguments with his co-workers. His deteriorating mental health leads to him being fired from his workplace after a serious accident involving a co-worker. With him being ostracised from the society, the film chronicles his downward spiral of paranoia and delusion.
Led by British actor Christen Bale, the film is noted for its deep psychological undertones and ideas of salvation and guilt. A part of the spectrum of Bale’s initially filmography which labelled him as a method actor, the film is perfectly moulded by his chilling performance. Written by American screenwriter Scott Kosar, the film is intrinsically built around the character development which formulates the succeeding narrative discourse. Aiding him is the gloomy cinematography by Xavi Giménez which showcases Trevor’s mental discomfort, pain and trauma.
The film’s narrative is intertwined by a variety of themes, motifs and symbols which structure the psychological thriller. From aspects such as self-knowledge, society’s behavioural tendencies, guilt and conscience, ‘The Machinist’ is a tale of unattainable salvation. In this article, I attempt to understand how the narrative of ‘The Machinist’ plays out toward the shocking climax. This article deconstructs the plot and further discusses the themes, motifs, symbols and characters which form the essence of the flick.
‘The Machinist’ stars Christian Bale as the titular machinist, Trevor Reznik who suffers from insomnia, thus being immensely emancipated. His deteriorating health and appearance keep his co-workers away. Things turn worse with them turning against him when he is involved in an accident which causes his co-worker, Miller, to lose his left arm, due to him being was distracted by an unfamiliar co-worker named Ivan. He is ostracized when it turns out that none of the workers know Ivan, causing them to suspect Trevor of being insensitive and crazy. However, Trevor has one silver lining in Stevie, a prostitute with genuine affection for him, and with Maria, a waitress at an airport diner he frequents.