The Scene From the Movie “Hostel”: Factors That Affect One’s Perception of the Situation


All actions of people can be considered through the lens of their motivation, which can be changed by external circumstances. The scene from the movie “Hostel” proves that there are factors that affect one’s perception of the situation and their willingness to act in a specific way (Grave Knox, 2020). This idea correlates with the theoretical approach of Max Weber to the definition of such a phenomenon with the help of the types of social action and the motives implied by them (Edles & Appelrouth, 2014, p. 170). From this perspective, the scene under consideration can serve as an example of instrumental-rational action performed by the torturer and its drastic shift towards value-rational and affective action. Moreover, it depicts the traditional type of behavior of the hostel’s owners contrasted with other characters of the movie.

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At the beginning, one of the main characters, the student named Paxton is sitting in the torture room. The men owning the place labeled him as an American, and this fact caused their intention to punish him indicating their inhumane attitude. Their behavior can be described by habit or long-standing customs of hatred towards the people of this nationality (Edles & Appelrouth, 2014, p. 171). For them, such conduct was a part of an established routine. Therefore, they did not question this attitude, which was natural for them. However, the torturer was different from other people in the hostel, and his motivation was based on other considerations corresponding to instrumental-rational action.

The German revealed his fear of them, but it was insufficient to change his intentions regarding Paxton. His deeds were primarily based on the calculation of advantages and disadvantages for him in the case if he refuses to follow the orders (Edles & Appelrouth, 2014, p. 170). This type of motivation corresponds to instrumental-rational action, and it reflects the dilemma that one faces while making a choice (Edles & Appelrouth, 2014, p. 171). In this case, torturing the young man was a better alternative since otherwise he might suffer himself, even though he realized the needs to be humane. Nevertheless, in the middle of the scene, the motivation of the torturer changes under the influence of newly arisen circumstances.

Paxton appeals to the man in German, which is his mother tongue, and this fact outweighs the fear of the hostel owners. Considering this new connection between them, he starts looking for ways to escape the necessity to hurt the student. In this case, his actions change from instrumental-rational to the value-rational and consequently affective model of conduct (Edles & Appelrouth, 2014, p. 171). At first, he puts his personal values above the ones instilled by other people, and they become more important than possible punishment. Immediately thereafter, his behavior was driven purely by emotions and impulsiveness (Edles & Appelrouth, 2014, p. 172). Under these circumstances, he decides to help Paxton to escape from the room.


By and large, the scene from the movie demonstrates all four types of action proposed by Max Weber, more specifically traditional, instrumental-rational, value-rational, and affective approaches. The first type is demonstrated by the men from the hostel following the set of rules established by the place. The second type represents the initial motivation of the torturer that gradually shifts to the third and fourth responses. It allows concluding that any movie can be reviewed from the perspective of the state of mind of its characters that guides their conduct and contributes to their dehumanization. This technique helps to understand them better from the sociological point of view.


Edles, L. D., & Appelrouth, S. (2014). Sociological theory in the classical era: Text and readings. Sage publications.

Grave Knox. (2020). Hostel (2005) | Paxton torture scene [Video]. YouTube. Web.