Life is full of funhouse mirrors, and more so for those with mental illnesses. The labyrinths of the mind are hard to detect, full of fallacies and assumptions. We trust ourselves, but can we? What is real, and what is not? What is really happening, what is the objective truth, and what is contorted truth – the story you tell yourself?
Joker is a 2 hours and 2 minutes long film that records the transition of a working class man with a dream of becoming a comedian; the reality is simply that he is working at an agency as a clown-for-hire – our first foray into the workings of reality vs mind that is emphasised throughout the movie. His progression into Joker is marked from handing of a gun from his co-worker, triggering the first turning point – committing the triple murders on the subway. Straight after he stumbles his way back to his apartment block, where he forces open his neighbour’s door and made sexual advances towards her. She appears to resist at first then relent completely, shutting her door behind her. A series of events occur, and the relationship between the two develops and blossoms — until the point when she finds him in his living room, appearing completely shocked and afraid — the movie reveals that the relationship did not exist at all, and they were in fact simply acquaintances who met each other in the lift.
At this point the narrative cracks open and leads the viewer to mull over which parts of the story is real and which is not. Apart from this highly obvious reveal, the rest of the movie keeps quiet on the delusions.
The movie progresses with the murders striking a deep divisive line between the Haves and Have Nots. The victims of the triple murders were revealed to be professionally successful men. Havoc reigns on the streets. He gets onto a talkshow host’s show and proceeds to shoot him dead while on live tv. He is arrested but a hospital van crashes the police car he is in; he is lifted out and placed atop the car in an act similar to reverence. Batman’s parents are killed by someone else in a clown mask. The movie jumps all the way to a meeting with a psychiatrist in a white sterile environment, likely a hospital asylum setting. He is handcuffed. You wonder – which was real, which was not? Was most of the movie simply all his delusions?
In all, this was an intense journey from mildly “crazy” man to full-on deranged madness. Yet, under the evolution of this man lies the same persona, a man struggling to free himself from the labyrinths of his mind, full of anguish despite the new sense of euphoria and heightened sense of self.
And remember, the movie mentions that at some point, he was supposedly put off his meds, so he could be hallucinating. Yet, he could be in a bipolar state and in which case may have almost definitely allowed him to commit those murders. How do we know? In Joker 2, perhaps.