The Dark Knight – the Joker Essay
In the film, The Dark Knight directed by Christopher Nolan, The Joker, one of Batman’s most dangerous enemies whose aim is too push Batman to his ultimate limits, to break his personal rules and strict moral code. This, being the Jokers only reason to live, he has no fear of death and pain. The Joker is characterised as a calculating and logical criminal, a rebel with minimal empathy or moral and a nemesis who commits purposeless crime. Together these characteristics are developed through specific and appropriate use of technical aspects, such as, camera movement, camera angles, props and dialogue.
Together these techniques create a character who is an extraordinary to watch, as he causes chaos in Gotham City, all to get inside Batman’s mind and to toy with his emotions. The Joker is portrayed as a very fearless and calculating character. A criminal with logic, but no justification for his actions. This is important to the rest of the film as this is what clashes with Batman. “How do you fight somebody who is bent on destruction, even if it means self-destruction”, Christian Bale states, Batman’s character.
An example of the Jokers fearless nature in the film, is the “charity event” scene at Bruce Wayne’s apartment. The Joker intrudes, making a prominent and spectacular entrance, he walks in when is assistants pull the trigger on a gun. This contrasts with Batman’s superiority as Bruce Wayne also makes a memorable entrance, in a Helicopter. Everything is impeccable with the Joker, his timing, his actions, everything is always perfect. He appears confident and is supported by the technique of dialogue. Anyone who shows fear, or confides to his proposition or plans, he plays on and threatens them. You remind me of my father… I never liked my father”, The Joker states when a man, who is eligible to be his father stands up to and attempts to threaten him. The Joker always gets personal and compares his victims to someone who “used” to be close to him, he has the ability to undermine his victims weaknesses, in order for them to fear him. Another example of The Jokers fearless nature is evident in this scene when another person stands up to him, Rachel Dawes, Bruce Wayne’s ex-lover and no beloved partner of Harvey Dent. She appears confident and demanding of The Joker.
This tests The Joker as he decides to pose threats against her, sharing the story of how he got the scars on his face, explaining that he cut his mouth in support of his wife’s accident. Altering his story depending on who he threatens, The Joker will always compare them to his victim. The story of how he got the scars is adapted multiple times throughout the film. One example of this is when he tells Rachel Dawes he cut his mouth in support of his wife’s accident, he then alters it and says he was abused by his alcoholic father. This is also supported by the aspect of dialogue when he results in stating “now I’m always smiling”.
This shows his fearless character as he has the confidence to lie, or so the audience assumes, whether he gets caught or not, he doesn’t worry. The technique of dialogue helps develop The Jokers character as it is direct quoting from the character himself, this is effective because the audience’s impression follows a trend of him being a fearless, confident calculating individual. Throughout the film The Joker is developed as a criminal with minimal empathy and lack of morality. This links back to Batman and how they’re opposites as Batman has a strong moral code and personal values.
The Joker definitely plays on this, as it is his only reason to cause chaos in Gotham City. This is also an example of how The Joker has the ability to make people feel vulnerable through undermining their weaknesses by relating to his personal life, its the reason he enjoys what he does, his aim is to break Batman’s strict and specific morality and values, as he can tell Batman still has immense anger and pain, that he tries to cover up. However, The Jokers tactics and strategy means he has too kill many people before he gets a reaction from Batman.
An example of this is in the opening sequence, he torments many people, by putting grenades in their mouths to stop them from talking. He has no remorse for anything he does, to anyone. Another example, in this scene, is when he sits with the owner of the bank. After putting a grenade in his mouth also, too stop him from talking back, making him vulnerable and uncomfortable. Camera angles is one technique that helps develops this characteristic as it is a low angle tilt, to show that The Joker is superior and a dominant figure in this scene.
The angle almost is intended to be a view point from the bank owner. Which makes the bank owner to feel vulnerable. In this shot, Lighting is also a very effective technique that shows his minimal. The lighting is dark, only exposing half of his face, this gives the feeling of fear and distress. Also, to add to this characteristic of minimal empathy, dialogue is another effective technique. The Joker says, “What doesn’t kill you simply makes you… stranger. ” Almost in confident hysterics The Joker walks off with the peg to the fake grenade in the bankers mouth.
This develops his character as a criminal with minimal empathy and lack of moral, as he doesn’t care about conforming to society. The Joker, is a purposeless criminal. He will destroy anything, or anyone who gets in his way, just to accomplish his goal, to break Batman’s personal rules, to never kill or harm anyone, but to save Gotham City from danger and chaos, which ironically is The Jokers one aim, to cause danger and chaos, to make people live in fear and torment. The Joker isn’t afraid of death or self-destruction.
In a way, The Joker approaches this concept in a childish, immature way. For example, in the “Hospital” scene, he blows up the Hospital Harvey Dent is protected in, guarded from The Joker getting to him, however, with his psychotic ways, The Joker kills the guards and dresses in a “cooky” nurse outfit, although it is unnecessary, The Joker still does for his own sake, to make everything into a joke, to add a personal touch of his humour. Camera angle is one technique that helps develop this characteristic, in this scene.
As The Joker hobbles away from the blown up building, perished from his explosion, the building looks distant in the background, but close enough for the building to be a danger to him, he doesn’t seem to be worried, or terrified for his safety, as he knows, killing Harvey Dent will release the anger and hidden burden of Batman’s. The Joker seems relieved and successful of his achievements. Another example of The Jokers purposeless crimes in the scene where he robs the bank, in the opening sequence.
The Joker has no reason to rob the bank, as you later hear, through the technique of dialogue that “… I enjoy dynamite and gun powder and gasoline… *pours gasoline on pile of money*… and you know what they have in common, they’re cheap” he says this as he burns his half the money earnings, he then goes on to say that its “not about money, its about sending a message”, his choice of words are very cunning in this sequence as everything he says has meaning, but no motive, other than pure satisfaction.
In this scene, that specific dialogue is important, as the audience soon becomes aware that the opening sequence also has no purpose. The Joker committed that crime for no reason other than to show the “Mob” that he is the new criminal in Gotham City, that “this is my city”. Together these scenes develop his characteristic of being a purposeless criminal through the use of dialogue and camera angles, it is effective in the sense that the audience then become afraid of him, threatened by his actions and sympathise for the people of Gotham City, as the setting is modern day, making it more realistic.
The Joker attempts to turn everything into a game, he tries to be a playful and humorous in a cynical tone. To him, everything is just a game, a joke, not even the serious stuff he can take seriously without making a mockery out of it. An example of this was his first confrontation with “The Mob” to tell them that there is a new criminal in Gotham City and he wants to get rid of Batman, although its him asking for help from them to do so, he makes out as if it is them asking for his help.
His illusion of being a magician is effective through the use of props. For example, he uses a pencil and “makes it disappear”, by shoving a mobsters head on the pencil tip. This acts like an initiation moment for The Joker, to “The Mob”. He uses, sarcastic puns and sinister double meanings, to show “The Mob” he is being serious, through a joking, sarcastic manner. When things are “blown” out of proportion, The Joker threatens to blow up the building with grenades taped to his jacket.
The Joker tries to calm them by saying “lets not blow this out of proportion”, but at the same time he says it in a joking manner. At the end of this scene, he offers his help by giving them his “card”, as they are all wealthy business men, they assume he means a contact card with his number, but because he knows they will ask for his help, he offers them a Joker card from a pack of playing cards. This sarcasm and use of props and dialogue, work together to develop The Jokers character as playful, sarcastic criminal who cannot take anything seriously.
In conclusion, through the use of specific techniques such as, camera angles, camera movement, props, lighting and dialogue The Joker is portrayed as a calculating and logical criminal, a rebel with minimal empathy or moral and a nemesis who commits purposeless crime. Director, Christopher Nolan describes The Joker as a “psychopathic, enigmatic, clever, diabolical, charming, funny and completely enjoyable to watch. ” Heath Ledger, who plays this part, is an extraordinary actor who plays it perfectly.