“Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the Hunter” this was the first thing that came into my mind within the first few minutes I was into this film. The principal character Arthur fleck is introduced to us looking at him in the mirror and getting ready for his act as a clown. He pulls his lips into a wide smile using his fingers while getting teary eyed. He gets up picks a sign board which says “everything must go!!” and stands on the busy streets of Gotham. A bunch of kids come and beat him up as we saw in the trailer and we see Arthur on the floor and the board broken and what remains is only the words “must GO!” What an amazing kick start (literally) to a story I wondered. We are shown the world of Arthur and introduced to what he does and how he feels for the rest of the few minutes. He goes to a therapist, talks to her and she listens to him apathetically. Arthur is a struggling standup comic and the only ascend in his life is the flight of stairs he needs to climb in order to reach his home. The mood is set and the melancholic score of the film starts. At this moment you feel as if you are holding the pulse of Arthur such is the brilliant music given by Hildur Guonadottir.
Now what makes the character of Arthur relatable to many of us and empathize with him is that he is always questioning is it the world that is going crazy or only him. The answer would be his world. Of course the things that were going on in Gotham makes anyone ask the same question, but they learned to ignore it and live with it. But he unlike them let it sink into him and this leads him to do things. People don’t take him seriously, beat him up and make him feel sick. He is weak and can absolutely do nothing about it, both physically and mentally. Whenever he is sad, whenever he is angry, whenever he is crying or irritated all he does is laugh like a maniac. A medical condition he calls it but we don’t know whether it is true. Everything about this character is so ambiguous and hidden in plain sight. He stays with his ill mother and takes good care of her and watches a television show with her. He is obsessed with the host of The Murray’s show played by Robert de Niro and imagines being featured in it. He is who Arthur aspires to be and imagines to be showered with love and compliments from him. He is almost like a father Arthur never had. But in turn of events he plays a key role in Arthur’s downfall and hence leading him into insanity. The reality of the world Arthur is living in is so sad that he prefers to live in an imaginary world.
The mental health issues he is having are given least importance in the society he is living in and the department closes down. “You don’t listen to me… do you?” Arthur says as his therapist sits quietly with a wooden face. “The worst part about having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you DONT,” Arthur writes in his journal, replacing the “O” with a smiley face. One incident triggers the animal in him and he decides he doesn’t want to take it anymore. He kills 3 Wall Street brokers in the train and runs away. He is still a coward, runs away from the crowd hides in a toilet and dances in front of a mirror in awe of himself. Meanwhile in the city of Gotham what he did is being looked upon by a part of people as an act of revolt against the rich. He grows confident as an individual as he sees people passing by wearing joker masks and going all over. He becomes a cult figure and a vigilante hero in the battle of the rich v/s poor. Arthur till now is hiding his sadness in the mask of joker. But after this he becomes The joker.
Every time he is in front of the mirror he looks at himself in awe, as if he is born to do this. Each time he laughs it has a different meaning to it and it is conveyed well to the audience. Such scenes can only be possible when you have a brilliant performer like Joaquin phoenix portraying such an iconic role. His style of doing this is different yet similar and takes this role into next level. Each time he kills someone, or hits a violent note the audience cheered him in the theatre. I think such is the charisma this actor brings to the very dark and non heroic character. He makes us root for him and cry and laugh with him. The depth of darkness in the character is so much that any element of light is always at the background or at the distance but not near him representing the lack of light in his life. And when he is on the spotlight it brings out the darkness in him even more.
As said by our dear batman “it is not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me” In case of joker it is clearly it is not who he was inside, his trauma, troubles and self pity but what he did and which path he chose, defines him as a character. All the things he has gone through don’t justify the master of chaos he has become. This side of the argument is clearly portrayed by the character played by De Niro and the questions raised by him. At the end of the day the character of joker is all about questions. He questions us… do you see me in yourself? That’s what this character is all about, the questions you ask yourself and how you choose to answer them. Which path would you be ready to take down? Arthur’s descending into madness is portrayed by him walking down joyously through the flight of steps he used to climb up holding his conscience. Now he doesn’t care about anything almost like a free bird, happy and comfortable in his own reality and mask dancing down the stairs. He laughs and celebrates when he sees people dressed like him and wearing masks to protest against the rich in Gotham. He celebrates while Gotham is burning.
In the closing shot of the film we see joker on a car standing up almost in an iconic SRK moment with his arms open and dancing while his fellows who cheer and root for him and who are so happy about the chaos prevailing in Gotham cheer for this master of chaos and the audience in the theater follows by. He takes his fingers and turns the blood running from his nose and lips into a smile, he puts on a bloody smile on his face and the hooting of the people reaches its peak. This moment I felt like he drilled a hole through my heart. I understand why he is doing all this and at the same time what he is doing is wrong and this is not the right way. For those who don’t agree with me I would like to say “you wouldn’t get it!”