‘Joker’ delivers on every level

Thought provoking, controversial masterpiece


Fair use from Warner Bros. Studios

Henry Brettingen

‘Joker’ directed by Todd Phillips is many things, it is a reflection on many aspects of society, it is a descent into madness. It is a work that is thought provoking, containing rejection, depression and mental illness. It is filled with innumerable tragedies that culminate in a blood filled climax.

Joaquin Phoenix plays the role of damaged Arthur Fleck (Joaqin Phoenix), a clown and comedian faced with a daunting task; to remain funny despite his haunting childhood, and as his world crumbles around him. Throughout the film a combination of past traumas, intense grief and current injustices results in the degeneration of Arthur’s mental state. Joaqin Phoenix plays his part to perfection, using his famous smoldering stare and his total devotion to deliver a heart-stopping performance.

After multiple cruel beatings, Arthur’s frayed mental state is exacerbated and he collapses into a world of strange humor, of hallucinations; a world where his every attempt of kindness is met by unadulterated scorn.

Todd Phillips delivers a visually captivating story taking place in Gotham during the 70’s. The film is gritty filled with visual contrast. Although it takes place in such a coarse setting, it is without a doubt one of the most visually breathtaking movies in a long time.

The film uses the sound masterfully to further immerse the viewer in this gritty film. Throughout  ‘Joker’, Arthur Fleck’s episodes of insanity are filled with swelling orchestral music as all background sound fades out.

‘Joker’ reinvigorates the classic story from DC comics, giving a fresh start to the classic tale. It gives a unique perspective on the grossly affluent Wayne family, who have previously been shown as a noble defender of the people, making use of their vast resources to defend the people of Gotham against brutal criminals. ‘Joker’ flips this take on its head, portraying the Wayne family as power hungry, and shows them using their large fortune to suppress those less fortunate than them. ‘Joker’ is without a doubt a more accurate representation than the fairy tale-esque view in other portrayals.

‘Joker’ doesn’t shy away from complex and controversial topics. Throughout the film, subjects such as mental health, abuse and the defunding of essential social services are all addressed. ‘Joker’ criticizes societies attitudes towards those with mental health, demonstrated when Fleck iconically writes “the worst part about having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.

Nothing in the real world is truly black and white, everyone lives their life in some sort of grey area. This is certainly true in Joker, where although none of his heinous crimes are justified, the audience can to some degree, empathize with Arthur Fleck.

It is a true masterpiece, a reflection of society, an exquisite piece of cinematography. It is a daring political statement, it is a rare gem, the likes of which is rarely seen.