Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck in the psychological thriller, Joker.
Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck in the psychological thriller, Joker.

'Joker' is the final laugh on us?

By Debashine Thangevelo Time of article published Sep 30, 2019

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Although "Joker" is based on the characters from DC Comics, the intent is for it to be one of a series of standalone films to be launched under DC Black.

Joaquin Phoenix is cast as Arthur Fleck, a clown-for-hire by day and a wannabe comedian at night.

However, instead of embracing him, society ridicules him.

His personal circumstances are equally pitiable. Left to care for his fragile mother, Arthur has been desperately latching onto different individuals in the hope of finding the father figure he’s never had.

Exposed to the unbearable ridicule of society, compounded by the violence, Arthur slowly slips into a different consciousness, one where he’s hovering on the edge of madness and reality.

It isn’t long before one bad decision triggers a deadly chain reaction and a sinister alter-ego rises in its stead.

The violence in the movie has become a talking point this week, so much so that Warner Bros released a statement: “Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero.”

On his reaction to reading the script, Phoenix said: “Well, I thought it was bold, like nothing I’ve ever read before. It’s certainly different than any movie that would fall into the superhero genre, but it was even different from than dramas that I had read. It seemed to have so many different flavours and tones.”

In this movie, Joker is an unreliable narrator. On slipping into the skin of such an unpredictable character, he said: “There were times where I thought he would enjoy altering his story and the effect that it would have on somebody, and how somebody might feel about him.

"There are other times where he’d alter it because that’s what he really believed. Usually, with characters like that, it’s frustrating because you want to understand what their motivations are. But it became like a liberation for this character.”

Director Todd Phillips has described Phoenix’s work together on this film as a "true partnership".

Said Phoenix: “Yes, and it wasn’t only when we were on set. After we finished shooting, or on weekends, we would call or text or meet up and talk about the next scenes. I felt like we were so unified throughout this process that if one of us got to the point where we weren’t feeling inspired, hopefully the other one would inspire them.

“There were many times it was surprising, how much we thought of the same thing, the same solution to a problem."

In the movie, there is a scene in the bathroom which becomes a significant moment for Arthur. On how they worked together to create that, Phoenix said: “The preparation was the study of dance and movement, but we didn’t find the real intention of that scene until we went to set that day. 

"When we arrived, we felt that we still needed something that would illustrate the emergence of a different part of Arthur’s personality. We landed on the idea because I had been studying all of this dance, and he started playing this cello music; it was a really effective piece of score that he had just gotten the previous night.

“And I said, ‘So maybe there’s a movement,’ and he said, ‘Well, I would start on your foot. Start on your foot, and that’s your move’, and that’s all he said.

“And then we left and just thought about it, and that’s all we had. And something else emerged, and it’s both a turning point for the character and it was a turning point for me and Todd working together.”

"Joker' will be released on the big screen on Friday, October 4.

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