Sofia Vegezzi, Writer
To be honest, I welcomed the news of the recent release of “Joker” with great difficulty, because after illustrious predecessors like Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight” and Jack Nicholson in “Batman”, the odds of finding someone who could have handled the comparison with these acclaimed performances were pretty low. As a film buff, though, I have to acknowledge my mistakes and admit that I’ve changed my mind.
The plot of “Joker” – released in theatres on October 4th and defined as a psychological thriller– is set in the 1980s in the famous Gotham City telling the story of Arthur Fleck, a man who resides with his mother and suffers from a rare mental disorder that causes him to laugh randomly in inappropriate times. As the movie goes on, the party clown finds himself repeatedly subjected to physical and psychological abuse by the society, driving his mental illness to the edge, leading him to become a serial killer, calling himself Joker. There are also several links to Batman’s vicissitudes that will surely satisfy DC Comics fans.
The film lasts about two hours, but the narrative holds up well and is engaging, except for a few moments in the first part where Arthur’s mental and social hardships are too exasperated, but they will be quickly compensated by several plot twists in the second part. It must be recognized, however, that the majority of the film is made by Joaquin Phoenix, who plays Joker in a surprising way; throughout the 122 minutes of the movie he keeps an impressive depth, digging into the character’s mental illness to such an extent that the spectator feels pain, nearly getting a stomachache from feeling sorry for Arthur. A key point that I personally appreciated was that, unlike the other Jokers, director Todd Philips wanted to exalt the human side of a character who was previously presented only and always as a ruthless villain without motives. Here, instead, the viewer almost comes to identify with the protagonist, almost justifying him for his actions as a hero who defends the most humble social classes of the city.
In addition, those interested in film details will be interested to know about the superlative role of photography, constantly adapted to what is shown and able to pass from an initial domain of grey in the day life still considered normal of Arthur, to more neon and cool artificial colors in the development of the serial killer side of Joker, when even the city changes colours to represent just the apex of the film. The director, on the other hand, although not very well known, has held the contrast with the editing of the film, excluding some handheld shots that can be chaotic and annoying.
In conclusion, comparing with the other five representations of the character of Joker existing in the history of cinema, the Arthur Fleck of Joaquin Phoenix conquers a dignified third place after the unmatched Heath Ledger and the good Jack Nicholson. Although it is not an all-round masterpiece, it still remains a valuable and worth-watching movie.