The Movie Experience – Watching Joker
Whenever I go to a movie I enjoy identifying with the main character. I see myself as an avatar battling for my life against winged dragons and fantastic beasts. I can feel the pain as the main character is rejected and experiences failure. I sense the isolation of a protagonist struggling against himself and his own demons. I also feel the pleasure of triumph when the hero overcomes his enemies.
All these feelings seemed to rush through me as I watched the film Joker. In it, Joaquin Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck (the Joker) a comedian trying to launch his comedic career and make people laugh. Unfortunately for him, mental illness, and the reality of his own history begins to surface leaving him further and further depressed and isolated. By the end of the film he becomes a man with “nothing to lose.”
We can all sympathize with such a character. We all struggle with our disabilities in a society that expects normality from us. We all long to make something of ourselves only to see the outside and the inside world get in our way. We all carry the seeds of laughter but also hate.
This is perhaps what is the most disturbing aspect about the film. We sympathize with a character who at the end of the film becomes something downright diabolical. The director manages to draw in the audience and take them on a steady and smooth path to hell.
It was CS Lewis who said “The safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
Joker is exactly that. We don’t really know or are unsure of where things go precisely wrong. There are no signposts. Joker feels himself to be justified and has public approval on his side. Yet he is wrong. The audience is wrong. And the path he is on leads to much suffering.
So it is with us as well, no? There are no signposts for our own lives. Minor steps, minor concessions add up – then finally we wonder how we ever got here? Perhaps we too can pause our own film. We too can take a breather and reflect on how we got here and where in the end we want to be.