August 20, 2008

the dark knight

Batman and JokerWhat is it about this movie that it sticks with you for days? Whether you like it or not, its hard to shake it off. Without doubt Heath Ledger’s performance is both brilliant and frightening and certainly deserving of the Oscar. But more than this,  I think the Dark Knight taps into some social dynamics we are all too hesitant to look at.

The Joker, for instance, represents some of our deepest fears.  I was fascinated by his relationship with the Batman.  The Joker wasn’t obsessed with destroying his rival.  On the contrary, this was not the cliche sort battle between the good guy and the bad guy, in which both sides are seeking to kill off the other.

The Joker seems to need Batman, he’s fascinated by him.  Creating ways to get closer to him, even to enter his life.  There’s that brilliant line, which on its own, could have won Heath Ledger the academy award: “You complete me.”[watch on YouTube]

Escher's ScapegoatThis makes total sense in light of René Girard’s Mimetic Science [link to article]: we are fascinated by our rivals, whose power to command our attention seems to derive from some autonomous inner source, when in fact it’s our desire which gives them that irresistible quality.  For instance, the Batman doesn’t kill the Joker when he has the chance.  Why is that?  Does the Batman need the Joker too, or was it really out of compassion?  Let’s not forget that the Batman forged his identity out of the overwhelming need to revenge his parents’ death.  So rather than bring the conflict to its usual conclusion, it intensifies.  At the moment the Batman finally has the Joker in his grip, he lets the Joker go.  The Joker, doesn’t repent or have a change of heart, as we tend to expect in this sort of story. Instead, Batman’s incredible self-control, makes the Batman all the more attractive to the Joker….he becomes increasingly mesmerized by his rival.  As a result the conflict intensifies, and as it does it becomes almost impossible to say who created who.     -Sue Wright

For the official website and movie preview [link here]

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