It’s been a while since I watched a film that both left me disturbed and brought me to the edge of my seat.
Joker did that and it took me quite a few hours before I was finally able to say that I’m both mad and astounded.
Todd Philipps created something magnificent that gave audiences the opportunity to dive into the psyche of one of the classic villains of DC, the Clown Prince of Crime a.k.a. The Joker.
The portrayal of the infamous Joker seemed surreal. No CGI, no greenscreen or bluescreen, no VFX, and other stuff that’s common in every comic book film. It’s simply a killer performance by Joaquin Phoenix and a storyline that enthralls you even days after you watched it.
Joker successfully brought colors, chaos, and depictions all rolled into one. The grit and realism that this film depicts are spot on since the first act up to the last frame.
Even Todd Philipps’ cinematography and Hildur Guðnadóttir’s musical score gave an exquisite blend of darkness, anxiety, and thriller combined.
Making a $234M worldwide debut, DC’s most recent box office hit is surely a film that calls to be talked about. It raises issues that demand serious discussion and not to be swept under the rug.
It disturbs those who are truly compassionate and those who acknowledge the real problem.
The thing about this film is that it’s uncomfortable to watch. No, it wasn’t cringy at all. It’s just that some scenes are meant to make you feel like you’re exactly where the tragedy is actually taking place.
Like you’re in Gotham City. At its most non-progressive state, dated back in the 80s. You see the filthiness that covers the surroundings. You hear the noise that makes up the whole Gotham City the Gotham City. You feel the hearts of those who are depressed and all those who have gone “crazy,” locked up in the Arkham Asylum for not being prioritized for help.
Because who are they to demand support when they’re all just a bunch of nobodies in a world where the rich always win?
It’s uncomfortable to watch because it demands to be seen that way.
As you sit back and watch Arthur Fleck descend into darkness, not only are you being provided with the Joker’s origin story, but you’re also presented with the problems surrounding him, which could also happen or are already happening in a non-fictional world.
To me, it’s what makes his story terrifying. Not because he kills and shows no remorse about it, but because of how society contributed a lot in the making of one’s tragedy — his tragedy.
It’s disturbing to those who see Joker as a victim of a cruel, unjust society but despise his violence on the one end.
The portrayals of mental illnesses, poverty, class divide, and power are on point. Todd Philipps cleared in his interviews that the film is not an attempt to be political, but the film throws out political references on the wall for you to interpret it yourself.
The film taps everyone to see through the kind of society it mirrors — our society.
It mirrors what we live in, what we see and hear in our daily lives, but fail to take real actions against these problems because of the many distractions floating above us all.
It demands to be seen as a disturbing film because really, all of us should be concerned that anyone could be Arthur Fleck if we continue to breed the kind of members of a society that thrive on beating up the helpless.
Perhaps Todd Philipps’ intention is for us to see through ourselves. That perhaps, each one of us has contributed even the tiniest thing to a massive problem. And it makes us guilty because somehow, we’re accountable.
When Arthur had his first kill in the subway, had no remorse about it, and danced inside a restroom instead, perhaps we get uncomfortable because deep down, we acknowledge that he’s been pushed to the edge despite trying to survive for far too long.
Deep down, you think those people deserve it, but then you pause and process what happened.
It’s sad and infuriating at the same time, knowing how Arthur could’ve chosen to be better instead of resorting to violence. We all have a choice to be good, but what happens when all you’ve ever known is just bad?
The film is basically a brave attempt to make people see the possibility of those who have been ostracised for far too long that maybe — just maybe — it only takes “one bad day” for them to embrace the darkness and finally fight back.
However dark and cold his origin may seem, it’s one thing to acknowledge what made him who he is, and another to just shrug off every cruel thing he did after learning what he went through.
Mental illness and trauma explain why a person behaves, but they don’t excuse one’s toxicity.
Mentally ill people are usually the victims of violence — and it was shown in the film. Arthur’s violence progressing as the film ends explains how a series of trauma, abuse, and societal injustice could lead to toxic behaviors hereafter.
Joker didn’t talk much about mental health as any other film about mental illnesses did. I think it’s because the film is not one to spark hope and goodness since it’s about The Joker — and it’s totally fine because we get to see how real of a problem it is when one is not provided with help.
It successfully gave light to the conflicts that could arise when those who need help the most aren’t provided with the help they need. It has opened a lot of discussions — the ones that most people would rather not talk about.
So when this film popped out, “too dark” and “disturbing” are the common adjectives being thrown out by many.
As if it’s not something DC is usually good at.
Indeed, Joker film is not for the faint of heart. It requires healthy compassion and an open mind.
I’m glad that more than the comic-canon portrayal of this character and the Wayne family’s character arcs (not to mention the cinematic parallels and easter eggs it presented), the film serves as an eye-opening art that is meant to leave you disturbed, more than entertained.