Director: Todd Phillips
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Marc Maron, Zazie Beetz, Shea Whigham, Frances Conroy, Brian Tyree Henry, Brett Cullen, Douglas Hodge, Glenn Fleshler, Camp, Josh Pais.
Todd Phillips’ Joker is the director’s original take on the villainous DC character, and the way his life has forged him into an antihero. Before presenting the film at the 76th Venice Film Festival, Joaquin Phoenix, who plays the titular role, revealed that the movie withdrew from the traditional comic book depiction, “We just wrote our own version of where a guy like Joker might come from,” he said.
The original story is infused with the character’s traditional mythologies, but portrays a more universal parable about a man struggling in a society that treats him as the underdog. The film is set in the early 1980s, with Gotham City in turmoil. There is a strong demarcation between the upper crust and the under-privileged, to the extent that the city has a dystopian atmosphere. Arthur Fleck becomes the emblem of those on the brink, with his mental condition that causes mockery rather than compassion. He has been longing for any light to shine on him, he tries his hand as a stand-up comic, but finds the joke always seems to be on him. Arthur gets sucked into the vortex of his cyclical disregard, until one day he starts to rebel. This generates a chain reaction of escalating circumstances that mould him into the reprobate character of ‘Joker.’
Phoenix is prodigious in the role, he presents mental illness with great humanity, whilst keeping some of the DC comic hallmarks, such as the cackling, which perfectly blends with the character construction of a man affected by pathological laughter, who cannot control his stress-induced chortle. It doesn’t surprise that a reference for Phillips and co-screenwriter Scott Silver was 1928’s silent film The Man Who Laughs.
Todd Phillips does not justify the psychopathic criminal mastermind, but leads on Arthur Fleck’s personal journey of insanity. As he clarified: “With this film, we are not inviting people to rebel. But let’s try to explain why people could start a revolution.” In fact, the part of society who has always been ill-fated, emphasizes with the rabble-rousing Joker. Arthur Fleck represents the individual who is struggling to be heard, but is ignored and vilified, because his instincts don’t fit with the accepted conventional standards of conversation or interaction.
Written by: Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi