This movie contains themes of poverty, mental illness, subjective reality and delusion, but the theme of betrayal and societal indifference must be the strongest one underlying this movie.
Arthur Fleck feels betrayed when his government cuts back mental health and social services to the point that he will lose his social worker and his medication. He’s betrayed by his city when young thugs beat him up and leave him bleeding in an alley. He’s betrayed by his employer who fires him from his clown job because Arthur carried a pistol to protect himself. He’s betrayed by his comedian hero (a TV talk-show host played by Robert DeNiro) who humiliates Arthur by mocking his stand-up routine on-air, and betrayed by multi-millionaire industrialist Thomas Wayne, whose hard-line politicking and denial of Arthur’s possible birthright may be responsible for Arthur’s poverty. Arthur is stuck between his need to protect his mother, and his resentment of the man who may be his real father, Thomas Wayne.
In Arthur’s life, the cards always seemed stacked against him. We see his desperation grow as the dillemas and pressures on him build, day by day. What little joy he has is temporary and illusory, and we watch his grasp on reality grow more tenuous as the pressure mounts around him. In those final moments when his releases his anger, at the end when his avenging persona is fully revealed, we feel Arthur’s bizarrely satisfying triumph.
This movie feels like a prequel to Heath Ledger’s Joker from Dark Knight. By the final act, we see Joker’s “agent of chaos” tendency emerge, and we watch him revel in the anarchy caused by rioting citizens who’ve all been pushed to the edge by desperation, corruption, and governmental negligence.
Arthur had little familial support in his life except for his relationship with his ailing and incapable mother. He had no financial stability, but ironically he was probably the son of the richest man in Gotham, trapped in the ugly ruts of poverty and mental illness. By the end of the movie, Arthur had found liberation through an insane justification and violent revenge.
Blade Runner 2049
I recently watched this 2017 movie on NetFlix. I found its visuals to be striking and epic, and its mood to be reminiscent of the original Blade Runner movie.
The big themes in this movie centred on what it means to be human, to have personal freedom, and to feel a connection to someone via romantic and platonic love, or as part of a family. In the world of Blade Runner, the spaciousness of the destroyed landscapes, the sparse, bleak soundscape, and the coldness of the acting tell us that this is an impersonal world without much love or warmth to be found.
The main character, Joe, is a Replicant (aka “skinjob”), a manufactured human with a limited lifespan. Joe works as a “Blade Runner”, a special police office who hunts down and destroys rogue Replicants who are seen as a threat to the government. Joe is cold and methodical in his work, and is treated like a second-class citizen by the humans around him. His only meaningful relationship is with Joi, an AI projection of a woman. Joi seems to genuinely care about him, and Joe seems to feel something for her, even while we wonder how genuine his feeling are. He could be just fulfilling a role that he thinks he is supposed to fill, like when he buys an anniversary gift for Joi. But it might also just be that Joe is playing-out an imitation of true feelings – we can’t really be sure. There are numerous Pinnochio references in this movie regarding Joe. He knows he isn’t a real human, but he wants to be human.
In the first Blade Runner, the main character, Deckerd, was a human in conflict with a world of Replicants who resented and rebelled against their artificially-limited and engineered lot in life. They railed against their creator slave master, Tyrell, the man who ran the Tyrell Corporation to create Replicants as cheap, disposable slave labout for off-world exploration.
Deckerd fell in love with Rachael, Tyrell’s daughter, and they escaped the city and sought a free life.
Rachael believed she was human, but Deckerd revealed the truth to her, painfully. Evan though she was a Replicant, was Rachael’s humanity any less valid because she was manufactured instead of born?
When we learn that Rachael became pregnant and bore a child, perhaps she became more human and symbolic of a new chance at shared life for Replicants and humans. Joe believes he is Rachael’s offspring, making him the son of Deckerd and a bridge between the two races.
This movie explores the idea of rediscovering real connections to another person. Joe discovers that he is not Rachael’s offspring but through Deckerd Joe has found a true connection to someone real. He is mortally wounded and facing his own death, but has found redemption and purpose, completing himself by reuniting Deckerd with the humanity that he had lost -Deckerd and Rachael’s rmissing daughter.