Butterfly to hurricane: A necessary darkness

Reel Matters

JOKER really is an agent of chaos, wreaking havoc like a storm not just in Gotham, but perhaps also in your hearts. Some say it is too dark, but it could have something that this generation badly needs.

We all have our fair share of that “one bad day,” and are on the brink of breaking bad. Joker is an invitation to just let it go and dive head on to insanity, without having to do it in real life.

If spoilers don’t bother you because you’d like to know ahead how a story ends and still watch it to learn how it reached that conclusion, then go ahead and read this review.

The moment you step into the movie, it already welcomes you into the mind of a man who is about to cross the threshold of sanity. The camera dollies into Arthur Fleck as he puts on his makeup, then you see a reflection of his face, and you are given a super-tight shot of his face.

After that, he starts to laugh. Or was he crying? You are not sure how he feels. It‘s like looking at five or more emotions in one facial expression. Then you ask yourself, “What’s so funny?”

You’d be asking yourself, “What’s so funny” several times in the film.

The first few minutes of the film immediately sets your mood for the entire movie.

The cinematography, from beginning to the end, is consistently striking. Almost all of the shots are a Fibonacci masterpiece. It was like photography telling the truth 24 frames a second -- not society’s truth, not the universal truth, but Arthur fleck’s truth.

The tight shots of the character’s face could almost turn you into an empath. You could see his feelings in every wrinkle of his face, every twitch of his eye, and every little arc on his lips.

The tight shots turn Arthur’s face into a location to explore and get lost in. And believe me, you will get lost. Was it still his feelings you are experiencing, or was it yours? Was it his truth that could be seen in each frame, or has it always been yours?

Until you get that itching feeling of beating up that guy behind you in the theater for speaking too loud or for making too much noise with the plastic of his chips during the most important moments of the movie.

That person could be the tipping point of that “one bad day” that the Joker infamously uses to invite you to his world of lunacy.

Of course, you are not going to beat the hell out of the guy behind you. Thanks to the movie, you do not have to, because you can already experience ever so vividly how it is to be a murderous, maniacal, psychopathic, nihilist through Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of Gotham’s Prince of Crime.

There were moments in his performance that were reminiscent of Taxi Driver’s “are you talking to me” scene, which becomes almost like a joke as you see Robert De Niro’s face juxtapose to them.

The dance almost reminds you of Tom Hanks in Philadelphia, eerie but aesthetically moving. It tells you that, like Hank’s character, Arthur is also suffering from a disease. Or is he?

His dance is like the cellophane in American Beauty, just dancing to however the wind of life pushes him around.

Aside from these movies, some moments in Joker also remind me of The Machinist, with Pheonix’s drastic weight loss and in some of the twist in the film that you probably didn’t see coming.

Until the third act of the movie reminded me of the gore, hallucinations, and egoism in American Psycho.

That was two Christian Bale movies. Maybe it is better to talk about how Christian Bale could play the Joker, instead of joining the status quo of comparing Joaquin Phoenix to Heath Ledger.

I don’t know how to transition this to my next point, but Heath Ledger died. It would be fun to tell a joke about his death, but Dark Comedy is quickly too taboo because people are easily offended these days. Ask Dave Chapelle.

But instead of being offended, instead of even laughing, which is how you are supposed to react to jokes, you grab your hair and whisper profanities for how beautifully executed the dark humor in the movie was.

And what could be funnier than the Joker meeting Batman for the first time? Arthur flicks his wand on Bruce as if casting a lifetime curse on the little boy. It is like how Voldemort accidentally turned Harry Potter into one of his Horcruxes.

Interesting how entwined the hero and the villain is.

And maybe that’s why dancing is a recurring theme in the film. Dancing like the cellophane to whatever way the wind blows. If it explodes into a hurricane, Arthur will be drawn into a vortex. He dances according to the whim of the storm.

Later, he finds himself in the middle of it all during the riot after the climax of the movie.

Then we realize he is not dancing because the winds of life blow him around. He is not dancing because he is thrown around by the hurricane. He is not in the eye of the storm -- he is the storm dancing.

Then, a boy stands in the middle of his parents lying dead in the gutter because of that storm.

That reduces Joker from a storm into a butterfly, dancing in the wind that inevitably would turn into a hurricane in the form of a Dark Knight.

That is the redeeming factor of the film. It was dark, yes. Too dark, you might argue. However, I guess sometimes, we have to go through that darkness to create a superhero.


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