One of my favorite films of all times is a silent film called “The Man Who Laughs.” It is the study of a man who was kidnapped and disfigured as a child in order to punish the boy’s father. It is a silent movie, and it is said it was the catalyst for the Joker’s character study. The film starred Connrad Veldt, who was famous for playing the somnambulist (sleepwalker) in “The 10,000 fingers of Dr. Caligari.”
The current version of the Joker’s story has been adapted to have our Joker suffer from a mental illness that makes him break out in fits of laughter. Set in the gritty streets of Gotham, the film shows the Joker sinking deeper and deeper into the despair that shapes his reality. Part dream, part “Walking Tall” (a revenge movie from the early 80s), Joaquin Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck as a loser, relegated to living a haunted existence on the streets of New York, where violence is only violent if it happens to you.
Todd Phillips tells a story that is grounded in the truth. It’s hard to smile these days–fairytale or not. If you ask me about the violence in this movie, I would say it is less violent than the news I hear on NPR every hour. We are living in a world screwed up by violence, where the starve children in other countries and put them in cages in our own. This Joker simply places the blame on the society that created him. We are all told to smile though your heart is breaking…
This Joker ain’t no joke.