Looking back over the recent history of Hollywood, it is hard to recall a film in modern memory that has provoked such wildly mixed reactions. Whilst many have hailed it as a rare modern masterpiece and a massive achievement of cinema, many others have branded it as dangerous, or gratuitous, capable of encouraging real life violence, which in turn attracted much pre-release controversy and media-led hysteria.
Risks are certainly taken in this movie, and many real world parallels can be uncomfortably drawn from it too. Audiences are dragged into asking themselves unsettling questions about a society in decline, as well as their own role in its downfall. How do we fail people? Why do we not give care when we should? It is a thought provoking film meant to be experienced with an open mind, worthy of discussion long after the credits roll.
In essence, the film is an engrossing psychological study, showcasing themes of wealth disparity and untreated mental illness, which in turn conjures a mood of despair and desperation throughout. We see Arthur’s descent into madness after suffering emotionally and physically, being beaten and betrayed by various levels of society and even by his own family. We may be asked to empathise with Arthur’s tragedies, but we are never asked to forgive him, as he seemingly becomes healthier and happier during his unsettling, yet mesmerising, evolution into Joker. Arthur’s character development is not necessarily romanticised, but rather, we are urged to try and better understand his position, making the film more thought provoking than dangerous, albeit sometimes harsh and unsettling. Phoenix delivers a raw and unforgettable performance, which is coupled with an impeccable score and slick direction, cementing it into the category of cult classic that will be discussed for years to come.
As mentioned, many people will watch this film and worry about potentially dangerous ramifications, like how it may encourage violence for example, but in reality, this is a film that encourages self-introspection, and encourages every single viewer to become a better person who treats people trapped in the margins of society with respect and belonging, instead of making them feel isolated. A feat rarely achieved by modern cinema.
Don’t (forget to) smile!
Now available to watch on streaming services: Amazon Video, YouTube, Google Play, and iTunes. Don’t miss it!
Image credits to:
Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Films via toynewsi
Nikolay Mochkin via Instagram
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