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Brilliance, Despair And An All Encompassing Need For Empathy: Joker.

Brilliance, Despair And An All Encompassing Need For Empathy: Joker.

In a world where meaningful human interaction has become increasingly scarce, where economic inequality hits record highs and many people are struggling with mental disorders ranging from anxiety and depression to more acute ailments, Joaquin Phoenix delivers the performance of a lifetime in Todd Phillips´ JOKER, a film that many have critiqued but few seem to have analyzed thoroughly.

For diehard DC fans, the debate has been about which actor has portrayed the villain in a more virtuous way; For us there is no debate.

While Heath Ledger´s performance in The Dark Knight was certainly compelling (even earning the deceased actor a posthumous Academy Award) it hardly compares in range or depth to the work exhibited by Mr. Phoenix.

JOKER explores the troubled life of Arthur Fleck, a character so masterfully embodied by the lead actor, that while dark and gritty, it also becomes understandable, and even endearing.

Embattled by a society at the edge of collapse, lies, betrayal and broken dreams, this unique character struggles to maintain its sanity, while fighting against rejection and mental afflictions triggered by abuse.

The film is nothing short of a work of art, beautifully scored, exceptionally shot and edited and not as troubling as many critics have stated. While violence is in no way acceptable, this character piece does seem to make it understandable at times.

A few scenes in particular serve to illustrate Arthur Fleck´s descent into madness and use of violence as a last resort in a world that would not provide a helping hand, a kind word or an ounce of understanding to an emotionally vulnerable man at the edge of insanity.

While other big screen portrayals of the mythical DC anti-hero have certainly been memorable, Joaquin Phoenix manages to humanize the character to a point where one wishes to alleviate his physical, emotional and psychological pain much more than condemn his evil acts.

The virtuous performance by Mr. Phoenix sheds a light on humanity and a struggle faced by countless people in the world today, the struggle between good and evil in the midst of extremely harsh social and personal conditions, and while the lead character certainly doesn´t deserve to be praised for its choices, it does deserve to be understood as the film challenges us to look inside ourselves and ask if we wish to be part of the solution, or if we´re content with being part of the problem.

One fundamental takeaway would be that empathy, tolerance, humanity and love are the glue that holds our species together – without these virtues, the pain and suffering that brew inside the mind of countless individuals day after day, become a risk to society as a whole.

The film doesn´t glorify violence, like countless other films do. JOKER uses violence in a calculated and effective (though not condonable) manner to illustrate the backlash resulting from abuse, betrayal and indifference on an already unstable mind.

While Mr. Ledger´s performance was certainly noteworthy, it lacked humanity, portraying the Joker as a maniacal mass murderer who distinctly enjoyed inflicting pain upon others. Joaquin Phoenix and film director Todd Phillips have managed to create a completely believable, highly relatable and incredibly compelling version of this legendary character, one that sparks debate not for the cruelty of its nature, but rather for the nature of its cruelty.

And though some may see the damaged Fleck as a “tragic” character, Phoenix begs to differ.
“I was interested in the light of Arthur, for lack of a better word,” he said. “It wasn’t just the torment; it was his struggle to find happiness, to feel connected, to find the warmth and love—that’s the part of the character I was interested in and worth exploring.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental disorder, there are resources at your disposal, violence towards yourself or others will never be the answer. Please visit the links below:

1.- www.7cups.com
2.- www.helpyourselfhelpothers.org
3.- www.adaa.org
4.- www.mhanational.org/im-looking-mental-health-help-myself

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