I looked forward to the premiere of The Joker, the film by Todd Philipps, for the very favorable reviews it has received. I finally watched it and I was shocked. The movie is a very sensitive and psychological look at the origin of Batman's most famous villain, the Joker.
Scene from the movie: 'The Joker'. / Taken from: Youtube.com/WarnerBros
LatinAmerican Post | Sofia Machado
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Leer en español: El Guasón: la película es bella, dolorosamente bella
One of the wonders of cinema is that it allows us to put ourselves in each others position, whether real or fictional, alive or who lived. By the will or whim of the director, we get to know what those characters feel and think, why they experience what happens to them, and why they react like they do. Now, the fact of putting yourself in someone else's shoes and understanding it does not mean that you have to justify it or agree with it.
In the movie there is no clear division between who is good and who is bad; Each one has his moral code, his circumstances, and his motives. There are not necessarily good and bad victims and perpetrators, there is more than that and the matter is also much more complicated. There will always be at least two versions of the same story, and I think The Joker points to that: it is the other side of the coin in the Gothic City universe.
It is a dark, gray and gloomy film: the streets, people, buildings, and even emotions. The low color represented in the clown, which should be a symbol of hope, also turns gray. There is no high contrast, black and white, nor is there good and evil expressed as absolute values, but a wide range of medium tones, of reasons, and possibilities. However, the film is beautiful, painfully beautiful.
Phillips' film also questions us about the character's very name, an irony regarding what he is as a person and the acts he commits. In Spain, it was translated as El Bromas (The Teaser), which makes us think that Fleck is not, at all, a joke. In fact, he is quite real and, although we are not in Gothic City, what happens there also occurs in our society. Fleck could be anyone who stumbles on the street, especially if he suffers from any physical or mental illness, because those are the ones who society tend to discriminate, judging as the "freaks", the "outsiders".
It is the society that abandons the weak because they do not work in the system. And those "weak", in their vulnerability, hit bottom after being victims of abuse and injustice that make them understand the relative of "morality", getting to commit very questionable acts, of which they are fully aware, but indolent. This is their last resort to survive in an aggressive environment that points, marginalizes and even erases them. Some of them even acquire popularity, because they become a symbol of resistance against a crushing system; thus, they obtain what for which many of us fight, once the survival is achieved: recognition; that is, a place in the world.
As someone said, "Don't judge others just because they have a different way of sin than yours". We all have a story, we all fight an inner battle, we all have or seek a why, a how, and the right to be taken into account, to receive help and affection.
The performance of Joaquin Phoenix is impressive, it is beautiful, as if he were possessed by the Joker. This is demonstrated in the precision of their movements, in their fragile and bleak appearance, in the way of walking and, above all, in the way of laughing. It is captivating, overwhelming, and disconcerting. The subtle precision in the changes of mood and the progressive transformation of his face towards a dark expression, are remarkable in the performance of Phoenix. Empathy is what made me feel in his role: I lived his pain, his despair, his sadness and even the blows.
But that empathy is also became lost with the violent acts that Fleck commits, gradually expanding the limits of what is allowed to be done, while society and the system are increasingly abandoning him. Thus, although the film explores history from the villain, it is no reason to incite violence or to justify these acts. It is a psychological, physical, and ethical exploration of the man who became convincing in the Joker. For that reason, it does not seem to me that it makes much sense to compare Phoenix on the same plane with Heath Ledger or Jack Nicholson, because this is a Joker as we have never seen him before, he is the person who lives behind, is Arthur Fleck.
The Joker is, perhaps, the most human film ever made in the universe of superheroes and, precisely because of that, moves away from it. The movie is a universe in itself, and it is not fun, not even scary. It is briefly painful, tragic and real. That is the joke.