Joker (2019): A Dark Genius Or A Nonentity Gone Mad. The Meaning Of The Film Joker, Analysis Of Plot, The Explanation Of The Ending, The Psychological Analysis Of The Personality Of Arthur Fleck (actor Joaquin Phoenix).
Country: USA, Canada
Genre: Thriller, Drama, Crime
Year of production: 2019
Director: Todd Phillips
Actors: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy
The meaning of the film “Joker” is that a crisis has come in society and it has degraded.
At first glance, this is a film about the imperfection of the capitalist system. In fact, the creators of the picture dug deeper: this is a movie about how injustice and callousness break an initially weak person, unsuitable for this life, and turn him into a dangerous madman – at least in his imagination.
What is the movie about
The fantastic film “Joker” is based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore.
80s of the twentieth century. The film’s title character, Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), lives in Gotham. The life of this already middle-aged man cannot be called joyful. Simply put, it is constantly moving from one failure to another.
Arthur works as a clown, but it brings him neither joy nor money. In order to somehow live, he is forced to earn extra money: he works as a barker in stores, performs with numbers in children’s hospitals.
Frame from the film.
The future seems to him gloomy and unpromising, and he gradually sinks into a black depression. At the same time, his “signature” madness develops. Frightened by his own thoughts, Joaquin Phoenix’s character begins to visit a psychotherapist. He reassures: everything is in order, it’s just a neurosis, Arthur is just tired.
Fleck has a dream: since childhood, he wanted to become a stand-up comedian. He understands that, most likely, it is not feasible, but his fantasies are fueled in time (or out of time) by a sick mother. Pitying her son, she assures him that his father is the billionaire and philanthropist Thomas Wayne, the one who is currently running for mayor.
Watching a bleak picture of devastation and chaos in the city, becoming more and more convinced of the complete futility of both his dreams and any undertakings, the character of Joaquin Phoenix gradually completely loses touch with reality and goes crazy. At the same time, he develops his own, rather specific, position in life.
This picture also has a hidden meaning. In general, “Joker” is a multi-layered movie, and there are three layers in this film.
Layer one: Arthur Fleck is crazy
The first layer is quite simple and purely psychiatric. The viewer sees in front of him a mentally ill person who is on antipsychotics: he suffers from a serious mental disorder and is being treated.
Arthur Fleck played by Joaquin Phoenix. Frame from the film.
In one of the scenes, it is shown that the drugs are over. After that, the viewer watches how the hitherto very constrained Arthur Fleck is gradually disinhibited and begins to act actively. In fact, he hallucinates: for example, in his imagination he has sexual relationships that are not in reality. The hero develops an uncontrollable psychosis.
The second layer: the jester brings the truth to the world
The second layer is mythological. The viewer sees a classic jester (a vivid textbook image). A jester is one who speaks the truth in the face of absolutely everyone, regardless of “titles and positions”. It can be seen from the Joker’s monologues that he brings the “new truth” to the world, but the world does not hear it.
Third layer: the world is ruled by a mad crowd
The third layer is hidden under the first two, but it is in it that important details for understanding this picture are hidden. The director unobtrusively invites the viewer to pay attention to Arthur’s entourage, and in particular to the “powerful ones” with whom he contacts, starting with his own boss and ending with the TV presenter.
These are all normal, good people. These are not some antagonists who wish him harm – they take care of him as best they can, investigate the crime (as they can), and run the program.
These people are contrasted with a huge stupid mass of masked people. What are masked people? These are people without a face, without individuality and without personal responsibility.
Frame from the film.
Conditionally good people who still hold power in their hands do not understand what is happening. They do not understand that, in fact, the power belongs to this crazy, frenzied crowd.
That is, the people who represent power in the film are not in control of the situation. And, in a certain sense, what is happening is the result of their failure.
The crowd is not the people who destroy everything in their path. These are the people who are stupid. For the most part, they are able to create the world that we see in the “Joker”.
Reality and fantasy
The authors of reviews and reviews are wondering what is reality and what is exclusively sick fantasies of the unfortunate Arthur Fleck.
The viewer knows one thing for sure: Arthur is actually sick, and sometimes he is too immersed in his own world.
First version: true everything except the Murray Franklin show
There is a version that all the events of the film “Joker” associated with the crimes of Arthur are a reality. The fiction in this case is only his fantasies about visiting the Murray Franklin show and meeting Sophie.
Zazie Beetz as Sophie Dumont. Frame from the film.
The fact that the meeting with Thomas Wayne happened only in the hero’s imagination makes one think about the following scene: having been hit in the face, Arthur leans on the edges of the sink and spits out blood. In the next mise-en-scene, he is shown standing in his own bathroom in exactly the same position.
The second version: everything that happened after the visit to the hospital is fiction
According to the second version, all events after the visit to the hospital are fiction. In the last third of the film “Joker” the hero comes to the hospital and receives confirmation of the fact of his own adoption.
This probably dealt a blow to Fleck’s fragile and shaky psyche, he began to run amok in the hospital, and he was placed in the ward. This means that Arthur did not transform into the Joker, did not commit any crimes, and did not attend the Murray Franklin show.
The viewer is pushed to this conclusion by the color design of the film. Initially, all of Fleck’s delusional thoughts are framed more vividly than the events from his real life. But closer to the finale of the film, the colors of the surrounding world become more and more saturated.
The third version: everything that happens is Arthur’s nonsense
The third version is the most radical: according to it, all the events of the movie “Joker” are fantasy. In the initial mise-en-scene, we see Arthur, whose state of mind is by no means normal. It can be assumed that he never left the hospital, and absolutely all events occurred only in his head.
History and personality of Arthur Fleck
The Joker is one of the oldest characters in the DC Comics universe: he appeared 79 years ago. According to the canonical version, in the past this is an unsuccessful comedian. This version is supported by a new picture: Arthur Fleck is a clown and a street barker who dreams of a big stage.
This is a dark genius who went mad for seeing things for what they really are. One day, he suddenly realized that he was a comic book character and addressed the readers directly.
In addition, this character has an impeccable sense of time. Thanks to this, he clearly knows what, when and where will happen.
Frame from the film.
Initially, this character was more of a trickster (deceiver), and was not conceived as such a complex hero with a tragic fate, which he eventually became.
The last film with Phoenix allows you to paint a more or less relief psychological portrait of the Joker. This is a man woven from complexes, phobias and manias.
He has a pronounced sexual frustration, he has a difficult relationship with his mother (she seeks to control him, and at the same time tries to support him in everything), and an even more complicated history with his father.
Transformation into the Joker
According to the plot of the film “Joker”, Arthur suffers from a severe neurological disorder (according to one version, what happens to him is called pseudobulbar syndrome / affect, which is a consequence of multiple sclerosis). In the most inappropriate, tense situations, he begins to laugh hysterically.
During one of the attacks that happened to him on the subway, Wayne’s employees attacked him: they were drunk and thought that he was laughing at them.
A fight ensued, and the unfortunate comedian shot one of the offenders. It was a turning point: the harmless loser Arthur Fleck turned into a terrible Joker, who began to kill everyone he considered guilty of his troubles.
When it was decided to cut funding for social services, the protagonist lost the minimal support that society gave him. The abolition of therapy led to an exacerbation of his disease.
The film constantly emphasizes that Arthur is sick: the transitions from hypermanic to depressive state are more like coat-like schizophrenia than bipolar affective disorder: this is what happens when schizophrenia gains momentum.
The film “Joker” unequivocally makes it clear that the reason for all the subsequent – terrible and tragic events – was precisely the rejection of Arthur by society. If anyone had given him a helping hand, the Joker would probably not be there.
The idea of the film “Joker” has been played up more than once by domestic and foreign classics. In the center of the plot is a typical “little man”.
This is a miserable, sick overage infantile, living with his mother and dreaming of his father. Creepy laughter is nothing but the result of a mental disorder. This is not a tragic figure and not a powerful evil. This is a crazed nonentity who is truly dangerous.
Frame from the film.
The essence of the picture, its meaning, lie in the very image of the protagonist. In it, one can see the shadow of both the initially half-mad Raskolnikov with his “I am a trembling creature or I have the right”, and (partially) Clyde Griffiths, who is “guilty, but not guilty”, and Hitler. Yes, Hitler: he, too, just wanted to become an artist …
That is, the meaning of the film is that society itself creates monsters, which it then fears. Of course, one cannot justify and pity these monsters, but one can understand their appearance.
The film shows another important point: the life of a small number of conditionally normal and good people has led to mass insanity of the majority. This is the result of any society in which the minority decides how the majority should live.
Interestingly, the Joker may well become a symbol of our era. The explanation for this lies in the fact that the terrible story of a loner, embittered, hunted, betrayed (as it seems to him) by the establishment and idols, resonated in the souls of a huge number of people. In particular, thanks to this, the film “Joker” has collected more than $ 250,000,000 at the global box office.
The meaning of the ending
The meaning of the ending of the movie “Joker” can be interpreted in different ways. At the very end of the film, Arthur is talking to a psychiatrist, and suddenly starts laughing uncontrollably. When the doctor asks what the reason for the fun is, Fleck replies that he would have answered, but only the “doc” would not understand.
Throughout the film, this character suffered bouts of uncontrollable laughter. But at the very end, talking to the doctor who treated him, Fleck laughs sincerely. According to some fans, the explanation for this is as follows: in the final, the viewer is given to understand that Arthur does not have any illness and seizures at all. And his only trouble is his inability to distinguish reality from fiction.
Whether all the events were real, or is it just a figment of a sick imagination, is not revealed in the finale (the director’s arguments in favor of both points of view are quite convincing), and everyone is free to think as he pleases.
Many wealthy people were outraged by this film: in it they saw an encroachment on their position in society.
It is noteworthy that the scene in the subway turned out to be completely real: in the history of the United States, there was a case when a madman named Goetz shot four criminal teenagers in the subway, after which he became a public figure and practically a hero of the nation.
A well-known artist once mentioned that he feels like humanity is on the verge of… something. This is what Todd Phillips’ film says.
The future has not yet happened, and therefore is not predetermined. How it will be depends on our actions in the present tense.
This is the value of this film and all films like it – such films turn the eyes of a large number of thinking people to what is really important.