Arthur Fleck's biggest joke just might be the one he pulled on you. Joker director Todd Phillips recently made a few very interesting comments to the Los Angeles Times about the final scene of the movie comments that imply a bizarre truth about the story being presented. In case that's not warning enough, be advised that major spoilers for Joker lie ahead.
Joaquin Phoenix's Arthur is depicted early and often as having a tenuous grip on reality. The film eventually lets on that it's not always clear which events are fantasy and which are reality not to the audience, and presumably not to Arthur.
At the end, Arthur is seen with his psychiatrist in Arkham State Hospital after he has apparently killed his mother, incited a riot, shot Murray Franklin on live television, and escaped from police custody with the help of his clown-masked followers. As the shrink attempts to question him, Arthur simply laughs, telling her that she wouldn't get the joke. According to Phillips, it's this particular laugh that might hold a clue about the true nature of the story that just unfolded. He explained,
"That laugh in that scene is really the only time he laughs genuinely. There are different laughs in the movie. There is the laugh from Arthur's affliction and then there is his fake laugh when he's trying to be 'one of the people,' which is my favorite laugh. But at the end, when he's in the room at Arkham State Hospital, that's his only genuine laugh in the movie."
Why is that, exactly? Well, perhaps because in the end, the joke is on us, the audience. Phillips has said that one of the main influences on his film was The Killing Joke, the acclaimed 1988 graphic novel in which the Joker says that if he must have a past, he, quote, "[prefers] it to be multiple choice." The director made a direct allusion to this dialogue in suggesting that as many fans have speculated Arthur Fleck might not necessarily be who we think he is. Phillips said,
"There are lots of ways you could look at this movie. You could look at it and go, 'This is just one of his multiple-choice stories. None of it happened.' I don't want to say what it is. But a lot of people I've shown it to have said, 'Oh, I get it he's just made up a story. The whole movie is the joke. It's this thing this guy in Arkham Asylum concocted. He might not even be the Joker.'"
Phillips went on to state outright that the man who will become Batman's nemesis may simply be in the background somewhere, watching all of these events play out. He said,
"Maybe Joaquin's character inspired the Joker. You don't really know. His last line in the movie is, 'You wouldn't get it.' There's a lot going on in there that's interesting."
Phoenix himself also explained that Joker can be seen not so much as a straightforward narrative, but as a series of suggestions. Keep watching the video to see that the Joker director finally explains that last crucial scene!
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