The Tragedy in the Gotham City
“I used to think that my life was a tragedy, but now I realize it’s a comedy.”
This is one of the lines that have haunted my mind since I walked out of the cinema after watching Joker. The main character in this movie Joker has a medical disorder, which causes him to laugh during inappropriate times. This movie mainly talks about the degeneration of Arthur due to the hopelessness of his life and the ignorance of other people. It also touches on the process for Arthur to turn into the real joker under the clown makeup who causes the mess in Gotham City, which is based on a prototype of New York City in the late 1970s. By the use of background music, the color of the scenes, and irony in the storytelling, the filmmakers show that this is a tragedy not only for Arthur but also for all the people in Gotham City, including both the upper and lower classes.
First, the background music used in this movie plays important roles in pushing the development of the plot and getting the audience to become deeply involved in it. I was pretty impressed by two songs in this movie as I was watching it. The first one is “That’s life” by Franklin Sinatra. In the film, after going on a date with Sophie, who was Arthur’s neighbor and love interest, Arthur danced with his mother while the TV show was playing this song. Both the melody and lyrics of this song capture a positive attitude toward life.
“Shot down in May,
But I know I’m gonna change
When I’m back on top,
Back on top on June.”
The central theme of this song is that, even though lives are full of ups and downs, the difficulties encountered are temporary and can be overcome. That’s life. Through these great lyrics, the director shows that there is still hope deeply hidden in Arthur’s mind, even during the process of his degeneration. This song can help set up a happy mood among the audience. In addition, the use of music helps the audience to see themselves in Arthur’s shoes and feel that life can be sweet sometimes. However, this positive mood is only fake as will be revealed later in the plot when Arthur kills his mother after knowing the truth. Such false happiness could evoke the sympathy of the audience toward Arthur since the only good news for him was not real.
The second song is “Smile”, played when Arthur is performing comedy on the stage in a club. That is the most valuable opportunity that Arthur has always dreamt about. However, during the show, his mental illness relapsed, and he started to laugh and be out of control. When “Smile” finished playing, the overall flow of this story suddenly changed — Arthur could control his medical disorder, and his performance was hugely successful. Following Arthur’s sudden change after this song was played, the audience can easily understand from the lines that all the success in the scene was just Arthur’s illusions. In this case, this song works as a symbol of Arthur’s fantasies and helps the audience to distinguish them from reality. In this case, the filmmakers try to convey to the audience that Arthur suffered from a medical disorder and went through a hard time.
Overall, the use of background music throughout the movie contributes to push the development of the plot and successfully gets the audience involved.
Furthermore, the use of the green color in the scenes of this movie contributes to the main theme impressively.
According to the Film Color Theory, specific colors in films elicit certain emotions from the audience.
The green color, which sometimes represents envy, darkness, and corruption, is mainly used in this movie from different aspects, including lighting, stage props, and even Arthur’s hair. As an “unimportant” human being who was always bullied by others, even though Arthur always tried his best to bring happiness and laughter to others, the thoughts hidden deep inside his mind were still negative due to the continuing difficulties in his life. Those thoughts, which cannot be shown by any lines, are represented by the use of the green color.
The juxtaposition of warm colors with the green light, which is mostly used, can also demonstrate the darkness of Arthur’s mind to the audience. The warm light on Sophie forms a sharp contrast to the green light on Arthur. In this case, the audience can catch the struggles in Arthur’s mind — even though he tried to chase for warmth and hope in his life, he still could not get rid of the darkness and difficulties he had to go through due to the current society. Moreover, there are a lot of depictions of the living conditions in Gotham City. Coincidentally, the primary color of Gotham City was equally green.
In short, the use of green color in the scenes is not only the representation of the tragedy of Arthur but it helps to build the primary key of the whole movie.
The irony that the director employs for storytelling in Joker equally reinforces the conflict between the rich and poor classes and contributes to building up the central theme. In one scene, Thomas Wayne, a billionaire running for the mayor of Gotham and the representation of the upper class, was holding a charity banquet in his house. In contrast, the “unimportant” citizens in Gotham City were battling their current poor living conditions under the clown mask due to the indifferent attitude and lack of action from the rich people. Such a stark contrast between charity dinner and indifference from the rich vividly shows the hypocrisy of the upper class in an ironic way. Through this storytelling strategy, the filmmakers can not only stir the audience’s attention towards the difficulties that most citizens in Gotham City have to deal with but also evoke the audience’s sympathies.
Moreover, during the charity dinner, the upper class ignored the cry from the lower class outside Wayne’s building. They even started to watch Modern Times, one of the most famous comedy films made by Charlie Chaplin, which tries to evoke sympathy toward the lower class who were suffering from the poor working and living conditions and were exploited by the capitalists during the Great Depression. However, those people from the upper class only considered this film as a classic comedy movie and laughed at it, ignoring the deeper meaning behind it. Such an ironic scene conveys the common theme between Modern Times and Jokers, which reveals the ignorance and indifference from the upper class to the poor people who need help. His degeneration into a real joker is a tragedy for not only Arthur himself but also the whole society of Gotham City.
All in all, the filmmakers successfully convey the tragedy of both Arthur and the whole Gotham City to the audience by the wise use of background music, color in the scenes, and irony in storytelling. Some people might consider Arthur, also called Joker, as the origin of the mess in Gotham City. However, rather than Arthur himself, the considerable gap between the rich and the poor, the hatred of wealthy people, and the indifference of the upper class are the causes. Even though Arthur turned from victim to accomplice as far as the confusion in Gotham City went, he could never become the origin of such chaos.