Thanks must go to Keith, who posted his theories regarding the end of the film, and I am essentially expanding on the idea while kinda going in my own direction. Of course everything here is 100% subjective.
Spoilers are obviously on the way, however, if you have seen the film, you must check out Keith’s review and his thoughts on the ending also.
I’ll try to disregard the ending for the most part so I’m not repeating Keith’s post.
The first interesting nugget I noticed was the very first scene before the title. Arthur is literally trying to force his mouth into a frown, then a smile which he obviously isn’t satisfied with as he proceeds to pull his mouth so far into a smile that a single tear rolls down his cheek and over his make up. Then he stops, looking into the mirror looking unsatisfied with his effort.
Sure, it could be a tear of emotional pain, physical pain from his attempt at a big grin, but the fact that such extreme gestures elicit only a single tear perhaps suggest that Arthur is unable to feel happiness or sadness: traits of a budding sociopath. The fact that he is looking in a mirror could be positing that he doesn’t understand the feelings of not only himself but any other person he sees, another trait of a sociopath.
Interestingly, this opening scene, given it it is the only scene that takes place before the title appears, could chronologically fit anywhere within the film. The only clues are his delusional attempts to smile or frown, as if he truly wants to feel emotion like most people. But his confusion around this matter is a near constant anyway, but it surely doesn’t chronologically take place at the start of the movie.
The constant sh*t that rains on him is literally laughed away, where most people suffering like this would be bed ridden, or dead, Arthur never seems to feel any strong emotion, nonchalantly shooting his third victim with no empathy or emotion to be found at all, as he simply walks briskly up to the man and pulls the trigger until it clicks twice.
When he shoots Murray, you could say he was bitter about being called a ‘joker’, but he never seems angry or upset. Before the shooting, when he confesses to killing the three men, his emotionless but proud smile barely changes. After shooting Murray, he again sits in his chair smiling – for a moment he is ignorant to what he has done. His reactions are the opposite of what would be appropriate or expected, but even these never seem quite real.
His laugh, that pained, cruel laugh that sounds as if he is gasping for air, seems to be a coping mechanism for the fact that he doesn’t know how to express these emotions. For example, the scene where his boss delivers some bad news, one of many effective close-ups of Phoenix, we see a grin slowly forming on his face as what his boss is saying becomes tuned out and muted.
As for his devolving mental state, the film proves that he was delusional far earlier than depicted, as he hallucinates positive interactions with the woman next door to him, clearly suggesting that he was already very sick and detached from reality from the beginning of the movie. Hell, was his mother even alive? Did he really approach a young Bruce Wayne? The more I think about it, the more this seems unlikely, as this would means Wayne is at least 30 years younger than Arthur/Joker, which doesn’t add up at all. Maybe everything here relating to his mother never actually occurs in the way we see it.
If all those interactions were all in his head, what else was? It is curious that the only delusion we actually see is early on when Arthur is watching Murray on TV and suddenly sees himself in the audience. After this sequence, we don’t see anything but the incredible performance from Phoenix, especially his body language and facial expressions that expertly hint at what could being going inside that noggin, while being subtle enough that it is open to discussion.
To be continued…
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