Can we consider Batman as mentally unstable?

Horror clown with a wonderful soul

No heroes, nowhere. Todd Phillips drives his dark Batman prequel "Joker" out of the comic. It is precisely the brutal realism that makes the film so strong

At the end of this Venice Film Festival, prizes will be raining as always. But on the screen, as you can already tell after three days, the winners and heroes make each other rare. Take Batman, for example, who was already a broken hero in Christopher Nolan's “Dark Knight” trilogy: Gotham City's fighter for the good simply does not appear in Todd Phillips' dark and energetic competition film “Joker”.

Only his alter ego Bruce Wayne makes two brief appearances - as a child who won't put on the Batman costume until years later. Phillips is pushing ahead with the normalization of the template already operated by Nolan. He drives the comics out of the fantastic, the comic-like almost completely. With the exception of the color, which with all the Kodak luminosity imitates the high-contrast, dirty spectrum of the “Batman” magazines.

Share in the fate of a repulsive figure

Joaquin Phoenix shines in this prequel of all “Batman” films as the mentally disturbed Nobody Arthur Fleck, who hires out as a clown and dreams of a career as a stand-up comedian, although he is completely lacking in wit and ideas. Phoenix manages that we participate in the fate of this utterly repulsive figure right up to the end. You don't want to encounter this gaunt, joker made-up ghost in the dark.

His crazy laugh is nothing funny. Arthur always has a card with him that informs disturbed passers-by that he has a neurological problem. How Arthur develops into the super villain Joker is portrayed by Phillips' and Scott Silver's script with breathtaking consistency. Or are we looking at the revenge fantasy of a permanently fixed psychiatric patient?

Sound that goes into the pit of your stomach

Mentally unstable, Arthur is regularly bullied, insulted and beaten up. Participation in the late night show by Murray Franklin (Robert de Niro), once dreamed, once unfortunately true, turns out to be the ultimate, because public embarrassment. Others in Arthur's place would give up and think of suicide.

Arthur is also considering suicide - in front of the talk show camera. After all, a clown colleague from the “Haha” agency gave him a revolver (“You have to defend yourself!”). Instead of himself, Arthur then shoots others. Yes, “Joker” is a pretty bloody movie. With a score in which cellos and double basses dominate, that the sound drives you into the pit of your stomach (music: Hildur Guðnadóttir).

A victim becomes a perpetrator, which is made all the more plausible by the urban background: A metropolis ravaged by social tensions, poverty and a gigantic waste problem (perhaps New York in the early 80s). The anger of the people is boiling. Christopher Nolan brought the Occupy movement into a “Batman” film in “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012), but let the motif fade over the course of the film. Not so in “Joker”, in which Arthur unintentionally becomes the figurehead of a riot, whose participants wear clown masks, a clear parallel to the Guy Fawkes masks from Occupy.

Criticism of the black and white painting

Nobody talks about globalization in the film, they demonstrate against the power of the rich. In the figure of the extremely wealthy industrialist Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen as the father of the later Batman), who runs for mayor and disgusts the protesters as “clowns”, criticism of the comic book and its black and white painting manifests itself. Heir to the millions, Bruce Wayne fights evil in a bat costume, but he is hardly interested in the causes of poverty and violence.

“Joker” is more than a formally successful psychopath thriller distilled from a cartoon series. Last but not least, it deals with the entanglement of media, corporations and politics in a very contemporary way. He depicts a brutal society that ignores the weak. She has bad news for Arthur, says the social worker Arthur visits on a regular basis. The social budget is cut, her job is canceled. For people like Arthur, politics is only interested if there are elections every four years. By the way: Without the horror clown sitting in the White House, “Joker” would certainly have been a different film.