In 2019, Joaquin Phoenix had become a face that was difficult to forget. Even for non-DC Comic fans, he remained deeply entrenched in the minds of the viewers.
While a significant number of viewers had disagreed with the politics of his much-acclaimed film, The Joker, he was unable to be subtracted from our memories. Soon, a bunch of magazines had immediately arranged schedules with him for photoshoots, interactions and everybody just wanted to know, what this man, this actor went through.
Turns out there was a dark phase
In 1977, when Joaquin had turned three his family was in a cargo ship bound for Miami from Venezuela. The members of his family included his parents and siblings River, Rain, Liberty. They had joined a religious cult, The Children of God, which was led by a preacher David Berg who chose to call himself Moses. Much of his childhood was spent wandering the West Coast as his parents had become missionaries who travelled around the Southern US. It was during this journey when Rain, Joaquin, Liberty were born. The Phoenix family members, who were then known as the Bottom family were well known as the archbishops of Trinidad and Venezuela.
Much later the parents, while being pregnant with Summer, had learned that the cult Children of God introduced young ones to sex at a tender stage in their lives; the cult used child intercourses as a form of recruitment. Soon they left the cult. Perhaps it was this childhood experience that reflected in Arthur Flecks moral intensity, the cackling laugh with a deep-rooted sense of vulnerability. Till date, the actor has not confirmed what led him to be the Joker.
Joker then Vs Joker now.
In DC Comics Joker is a vile man with no shred of mercy left in him. A character well brought out by late actor Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. Before 2019, never have we imagined that a villain such as the Joker would ever pursue to be a stand-up comedian. Directed by Todd Philips, The Joker was a homage to the 1970s and 80s Hollywood, mainly to writer Paul Schrader, director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro who was also a co-star in The Joker.
It doesn't take much time for Arthur Fleck, to reminds us of a Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver) suffering from mental illness, alienation, narcissism. The Joker's depiction of how a white man resorted to riots, kept us all silent in the hall. For years, we felt the loss of Bruce Wayne when his parents died in a dark alley, and suddenly we found ourselves inside a theatre premise where an audience cheered when Thomas Wayne and Martha Wayne were shot dead.
Various publications such as Variety reviewed The Joker as "the rare comic book movie that expresses what's happening in the real world, Vanity Fair called it "irresponsible propaganda for the very men it pathologizes."Despite everything, the film took home the best film award at the Venice Film Festival. "
"There are so many different ways of looking at it. You can either say here's somebody who, like everybody, needed to be heard and understood and to have a voice. Or you can say this is somebody that disproportionately needs a large number of people to be fixated on him. His satisfaction comes as he stands in amongst the madness," Joaquin Phoenix had mentioned in an interview with Vanity Fair.
Much like his last name, Phoenix rose from the ashes of his darkness, only to embrace it and live with it in our memories.