some men just want to see the world burn
On the morning of January 23rd, I was pushing myself to wake after a couple of hours of sleep. I had an exam that morning, I cannot remember the subject exactly. I just know we were supposed to have deep theoretical knowledge about something aka it was expected of us to learn by heart, something I was never good at. I cuddled in my long sweater and opened the books and the notes I had, as well as my Yahoo mail account to check if any updates have been posted on the online group during the night – all of us had the biological rhythm of owls during exam periods. And there it was: the news, the unbreakable verdict, the cold words hiding so much emotion and pain: Heath Ledger was found dead due to an accidental overdose. The lack of sleep, the anxiety about the exam were exacerbated by this headline and I broke into tears. That feeling of absurd, of emptiness followed me through the day, and it resurfaced when months later I entered the cinema to see The Dark Knight. Reviews from other countries were already available, so there were no fears of the movie not being good. But the emotions were there, in the audience. We were witnessing a swan song, probably one of the best performances in recent years. The question must have lingered in some minds, including my own: Was this the role that consumed him? Was it really worth it? Some dismiss this theory, saying that his death was a surprise to everyone, that there were no signs of Joker-poisoning. But if it were so, I wondered if we the audience truly deserve how much some actors and artists are willing to give us. Have we learnt to perceive and understand the cost of talent and dedication? Have we learnt to appreciate the sacrifices implied by pure creation?
What’s the Movie About
The Dark Knight resumes the action from Batman Begins, the first movie of the trilogy that proved that comic-book-inspired movies can be “serious” movies, too. Batman (Christian Bale) is keeping the streets criminal-free, while a new District Attorney is doing a sweep of his own. They are unknowingly and indirectly connected by Rachel, Bruce’s dear friend and former love interest and now working closely and dating Harvey. The DA’s efforts of reducing crime rates through the legal and formal way are so effective, Bruce is considering hanging the cape and settle with Rachel for a normal life, especially since Batman is seen as a dangerous vigilante. Everyone’s plans go bust, once the wild card, literally, enters the stage. Joker is a creepy creature, a self-described agent of chaos, answering only to himself and his interests. He maneuvers everyone and every situation to his twisted advantage. His intention is to break people, physically and psychologically. The Dark Knight explores much darker depths than the previous film: the questions and choices that the characters have to face remain unfirmly answered and as a member of the audience, you feel challenged, tricked and hopeless. But The Dark Knight is not a movie about pessimism.
What Can Be Learnt
In his review of The Man Who Laughs (1928), a silent German Expressionist movie whose main character inspired the Joker character, the late Roger Ebert notes that Movie villains smile so compulsively because it creates a creepy disconnect between their mouth and their eyes. This AMBIVALANCE is at the core of The Dark Knight, expanding beyond the borders of the Joker’s face or his behavior. Every moment is a dance between two characters, a choice that has to be made, a coin that has to be turned, and a look into the past as well as into the future. Nolan is not as a great director as his league of ferocious fans claims he is, but he is a smart film maker who had the understanding that the comic-books are less comedy and more drama and has adapted them in a relevant way for a modern audience. Fear is evoked through simple ways, and seeing how the world could crumble in a few seconds, such unexpectedly, flashes memories of the towers in New York. Yet, the film possess universal moral dilemmas, conflicting, at individual and collective levels. Chaos and order are constantly mirroring each other. A giggling Joker dressed as a nurse pushing the button of a remote control until the delicate electronic system finally works and the hospital behind him bursts into flames. A demonic circus act unleashed on the world trying to be saved by a man whose childhood was as tormented as his nemesis.
What’s the Key Take-Away
The Dark Knight is worth seeing more than one time. The character of Joker is so well conceived, every time you watch the movie, it will rattle a new part of your core. AMBIVALENCE will mark your impression of the film, as nobody in this film is 100% villain or a 100% good. Towards the climactic moment, Morgan Freeman’s character stands for ethics, his argument strong and reasonable. But what can you do when just a fire extinguisher is not enough to keep the world from burning down?