Welcome to the first of many editions of a joint venture between Jack Reviews Films (JRF) and Against the Backdrop Photography (ATB). I think ATB can speak for both parties involved when we say that we are excited to get going with this new segment. Coupling two elements that we love.
Each week, we will pick a film. Speak about the film and dissect iconic scenes that are stills. For this week’s edition, we are looking at the masterclass that is ‘Joker’.
One of the main aspects of what makes a film so beautiful is what you can see when you pause it. Ever since cinema was introduced, some of the stills produced are often more iconic than the actual scene due to the value they hold. As they say, a picture can speak a thousand words, but some speak a million. Film photography is essential in modern culture!
I can’t agree more with what has been said. Photography is cemented within film and often the marketing of films. How many times have you watched a film, recalled it and maybe not the scene of the film be thrust forward from your memory, but the still of the scene? - I know I can say that. One that springs to mind is from the very film that we are talking about in this blog.
The famous scene. You know the one. The one with the staircase (Wow, that sounded like a friend’s episode). It is iconic. From a photographer’s perspective, I think it is incredible. It encapsulates his story, his persona, his intentions but with an enormous sense of freedom.
The stairs leading up to him show that he has placed himself at the top. Considering everything that has happened to him at this point in the film, Arthur Fleck's positioning in this picture and this scene demonstrates ultimate power. Whatever happens next doesn't matter - and that's the scary thing. Knowing what has happened, he knows exactly what is coming next, and his descent into his own psychotic mindset really isn't that far out of reach. "What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash?" This is exactly what you get. Turning into the Joker is therapy to Arthur, he has finally accepted his true self, and its depiction on screen is enriched by beautiful scenery, colours and vivid imagination. All of this combined allows us as viewers to connect directly with Arthur.
For me, if I am tasked with incorporating stairs into an image, where I place the subject or how I position myself will make or break the image. It tells a deeper story. In this instance, I agree with Jack. Joker is at the pinnacle here. It doesn’t matter what happens next, he is at the top in his mind – he may well descend into madness like we know he will. But, when you place a subject at the top of a staircase and shoot upwards, you project and almost assert dominance. This is what you want to believe, he is no longer a pushover. He quite frankly, doesn’t care.
I love love love that we can still see these fire escapes. It provides the image with authentic background noise. We know that he is still in the city, and it almost for me, looks with the help of the streetlamp – almost like Gene Kelly singing in the rain. Of course, it’s not all dancing for long for Joker – but he looks free for the first time in his life.
Red is the main focus of the outfit. Red is also synonymous with the iconic smile of the Clown Prince of Crime. It stands out, not everybody wears a red suit and wears makeup that bold. Red, as bold as it, is showing a warning. The colours used are directly associated with traffic lights - red, yellow and green. I'm not saying this was intentional, but the viewer can see that. It's almost as if to say get ready because the real Arthur Fleck is here, and this time, it's all systems go. By no means is the Joker character a good persona, but this exact moment in the film - everyone should have an expelling happiness towards Arthur. He is himself, his clothes are bold and his smile is big. Red is at the centre of this foreshadowed warning.
The colour choice for the outfit is phenomenal. Red is a colour that asserts dominance, power – all things that the Joker now is. I see a pallet of primary colours, easy on the eye and somewhat childish. When I was in school, we were taught primary colours – some of what we see here in his outfit is primary. It almost affirms that he really doesn’t have an adult mindset, quite childish in some respect. I appreciate Jack’s interpretation of the colour pallet too – I think the use of traffic lights is great. Joker is very unpredictable, likely to change from what those colours in a traffic sense mean. Yet, Joker doesn’t and will not follow the traffic sequence, he could go from green to red. It showcases his personality well.
‘Joker’ (2019) in general is a masterpiece and finding one still to represent the film was a near-impossible challenge, but this encapsulates everything. The entire film is a painting, but this camera work in this shows exactly how powerful this scene really is.
The scene, the shot, the movie. Incredible. For me, this is Joker. When I hear the word ‘Joker’ I think of this image. For what this ultimately stands for, throughout the course of Joker (2019) film we saw him transform into what we see before us in this shot. It shows tremendous character development. The general filter that seems to be on the image is also very warm, contrasting to the character's personality.
I genuinely associate this image with freedom – he is beyond the point of caring and I love that. The background noise only further reiterates this, he is free in the city. We all know what follows on from this scene and the still – but as movie stills and covers go, phenomenal. The work on this movie is incredible and as the blending of film and photography go – unbelievable.