November 29, 2004

63 Lbs: The Ghost in The Machinist

Seattle Maggie trusts that everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday, hopefully involving more than one type of pie. During our obligatory trip to visit the family in Silicon Valley with Boyfriend Todd in tow, we found ourselves shockingly drugged with turkey and various starches, so much so that it took a heroic amount of effort just to drag ourselves out for a cup of coffee the Friday after. What is there to do amidst such food-drenched sluggishness? Why, go to the movies, of course! Luckily, while the Bay Area seems to be drowning in strip malls, big box stores and Applebees, it does boast a good number of theaters with a fine selection of independent films. While vaguely tempted by Nick Cage’s Great American treasure huntin’ hijinks in Indiana Jones IV, er, National Treasure, we instead opted for something a little less frenetic in The Machinist.
machinist.jpg In the film, machinist Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) hasn’t slept in a year, leaving him in near-skeletal shape. After a horrific accident at the machine shop, things begin to conspire against him – anonymous notes stuck to his refrigerator, dark looks from his fellow machinists, and the appearance of a shady fellow named Ivan. Good thing he has the reliable embrace of hooker with a heart of gold Stevie and the confidence of beautiful airport café waitress Marie…but why is it always 1:30am?
First things first – Seattle Maggie is aware that the 63 pounds that are missing from Bale’s hunky frame are being bandied about like the cry of carnival freak show barker: See the Man Who Lost A Bunch of Weight! Never mind that director Brad Anderson has already proved himself to be a thoroughly creative and absorbing director/writer. We know you have heard us rave about Session 9, a symphony of quiet horror that plucks each taut nerve to the perfect screaming pitch, but Anderson’s work in other genres, such as the sweetly romantic Next Stop Wonderland and the weirdly affectionate Happy Accidents, also makes us a huge fan. Never mind that cinematography is beautiful, both stark and full of portentous dread, much like the dark storm clouds that linger throughout the movie. One feels sucked in by the oppressive remoteness, from the soulless whirling gadgets of the machine shop to the impassive faces of the other machinists to the pale, dreamily unreal color palette, broken up only by the flashy cherry red of a mysterious car, the dribble of crimson blood down a refrigerator door, or the smiling ruby lips of the friendly Marie. Never mind that the film is engrossing, thought provoking and thoroughly entertaining. But no – what about those 63 pounds!
Okay, we admit it – even though we scoff at the hallowed weight loss trumpeted in ads and reviews, we found ourselves completely and utterly shocked by the first sight of Bale’s emaciated naked body. It is impossible not to be. And as the film progressed, it became clear to us that the dramatic weight loss was not the product of a publicity stunt or because Oscar favors the bodily-altered. Trevor is a character who is being wasted away by a force beyond his control. He is being gnawed at by sleepless nights and a past that he cannot bring himself to face. His body is the physical definition of guilt, gnarled and fragile, nibbled away to the core. The machinist is on the verge of becoming the machine, with no past, no feelings, no regret and no hope. For this bold statement, we applaud The Machinist, and even those of us sodden with the aftermath of holiday feasts can relate to the all-too human feelings of regret and longing to escape our mistakes. Seattle Maggie hopes to escape that extra helping of chestnut stuffing that is currently making our jeans so snug.

P.S. Our impromptu Primer competition a few weeks ago yielded a less than enthusiastic response. This leads us to believe that our fellow cinecultists have:
a) not seen it
b) seen it, but like us, did not get it
c) seen it, understood it completely, but are trapped under some thing heavy, mostly likely an expired equine beast that is still being unmercifully beaten
Ah well, we knew we were geeky, but we suppose this indicates a new low. Big thanks to reader Craig, who was kind enough to point us in the right direction to find some answers to our questions. The poster is yours if you want it, dude – otherwise, it will most likely end up as ultra nerdful wrapping paper for our holiday gifts.

Posted by seattle maggie at November 29, 2004 8:07 AM