Finally caught up with this film that was much talked about and much debated over last year.
This intense and dark psychological thriller which is gripping and disturbing at the same time provides a possible back story of probably how the iconic DC character originated.
Cast- Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro
Writers- Todd Phillips, Scott Silver
The film opens to 1981 Gotham city reeling under unemployment, poverty, an apathetic social health care system, hooliganism, wealth disparity and a very despaired mindset.
Arthur (Phoenix) lives an impoverished life with his old mother, works as a party clown, aspires to be a stand up comedian and is dealing with severe mental health issues. We see a very disturbing and pitiable state of Arthur’s life. He gets bullied, finds it difficult to express himself, feels utterly lonely and dejected. Meanwhile business tycoon Wayne is running for Mayor and gives a condescending media statement about the have-nots being jokers.
His grim life gets grimmer when he gets fired from job for being in possession of a gun; kills 3 people while being bullied and assaulted; comes to know some startling and disturbing facts about his birth and childhood; his idol, comedy show icon Murray ends up trivialising him on his show… and Arthur just topples over the edge. And so does the city which is seeing a joker-revolution of sorts – attacking, rioting, looting. The Joker, now an icon, symbolises a violent uprising of the downtrodden!
The direction, the screenplay, the writing and the cinematography come together to present a very captivating performance by Phoenix. The lighting and the shots quietly and brilliantly display Arthur’s mindsets. For example the shot in the bus after he gets to know about his father, the frame after he happens to kill the three people in the subway and then back when he gets to know about his past. Performance wise, it’s needless to say that Phoenix is incredible in terms of the complexities of the emotions conveyed. Not once it seemed over the top which can be quite the case when presenting such a character.
The most brilliant aspect about the film is the most disturbing. The makers create such a grim picture and evoke so much sympathy that it completely numbs out our outrage at the violence unleashed. I wouldn’t say that they have tried to justify the violence as raged over in debates but it does kind of brain wash you to not feel sorry about it. And that’s quite an overpowering impact for any cinema.
Though I don’t think a brilliant film like it needs recommendation , but I would still say … just watch if you haven’t yet.