What you need to know:
- UAE residents watch the film joker, and discuss the themes of the movie.
- DC’s popular villain is analysed by UAE residents.
Joker with its main character’s hysterical high-pitched laughter has fuelled global controversy on the depiction of violence and mental ill health.
Why? Well, people have either loved the dark portrayal of DC’s favourite villain, or have hated the film completely. We spoke to UAE residents to see if the movie deserves the praise or if it should be panned.
A higher age restriction?
Many felt that allowing the movie to an audience of 15 and above was not ideal. The age limit should have been higher.
Dubai-based entrepreneur V. Sachdev thought the movie was “unbelievable”.
The 24-year-old said: “I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, from start to finish. I loved the way Joaquin Phoenix portrayed the character and brought out his own originality to the notorious villain.
“I was surprised to find that it was restricted to audiences 15 years and above, it should be at least 18 years.
“People get brutally killed and smashed-up. I don’t think children at that age should be exposed to something like this. Given the time we live in, where gun violence is such an issue in the West, this could fuel that.”
He said that he was sandwiched between two people who were having a hard time processing what was happening on screen, and that was true for others in the cinema hall as well.
Twenty-one-year-old student Omar Belal Nasir watched the movie but is “on the edge about liking it”. He thought the violence depicted in the film was too “gory”.
I think the scenes were a little excessive, espeically when he shoots a [celebrity] on live television. But I can see myself as a 16-year-old going to watch this.”
The Palestinian national said: “I think the scenes were a little excessive, especially when he shoots a [celebrity] on live television. But I can see myself as a 16-year-old going to watch this.”
Validating bad behaviour and crime?
US national Yamaan Farhat enjoyed the movie and was “entertained” till the very end. However he did not like the way “crime was almost validated in the film”.
The 26-year-old English teacher said: “You feel like crime, especially murder is being validated. But is it too violent? I don’t think so.
“I don’t think it boils down to violence, it should boil down to whether the movie is influencing you in a certain way that is not positive.”
Farhat talked about how the movie makes the viewer sympathise with the criminal who is seen as a victim. “He’s getting kicked and beaten up. He retaliates with a weapon that wasn’t even his. So you do sympathise with him. He’s not a normal person.”
However Farhat does strongly believe that the movie encourages gun violence.
Expressing a contradictory view, Indian national Nikhil Wadhwa, disagrees with the notion that the movie was too violent and thinks it actually “discouraged gun violence”.
The 23-year-old said: “I don’t think it’s too violent as a film in general, however there are a couple of scenes that may be too violent for some. Therefore, I think the rating is fine.
“Joker is a delusional character and his portrayal in this film messes with the audience’s mind. Films are subjective in what they seem to be doing to different people. The film tries to make us sympathetic towards the Joker because you cannot watch a character you don’t like for 122 minutes.”
The film tries to make us sympathetic towards the Joker because you cannot watch a character you don’t like for 122 minutes.
Does it discuss mental health or disregard it?
Critics have said that this film is too “realistic” and “humanises” Joker’s character, and Wadhwa agreed.
He said: “It was a very humble interpretation of the villain and it drew parallels to situations today, like rich politicians and decision makers, versus the poor who are impacted by social institutions shutting down.”
While Joker is a disturbed, delusional and mentally unstable character, Wadhwa said that the writers managed to throw light on the importance of mental health in a “non-clichéd way”.
While in the beginning of the film we are introduced to Joker’s mental health issues, his illness and behaviour throughout the film is drawn back to the importance of mental health and the effects of neglecting it.
Pakistani national Nida Gulzar loved the film. She said: “I have seen the film and I loved it. I liked how we got to know the villain’s background for a change... the movie helped better understand why the Joker turned so evil.”
She agreed that the film brought awareness to mental health.
The 18-year-old said: “This whole situation in the movie could have been avoided if Joker continued his proper treatment and medicines, however it also discusses how people should be more empathetic towards the mentally ill, rather than ridicule them.
This whole situation in the movie could have been avoided if Joker continued his proper treatment and medicines, however it also discusses how people should be more empathetic towards the mentally ill, rather than ridicule them.
“The Joker made us sympathise with the villain because it showed the underlying reasons to his evil character but it also glorified him as if he turned evil for the right reasons.”
Twenty-three-year-old Aishwarya Satish, agreed. The Indian national said: “I liked the bordered realism used in the film. People don’t pay attention to mental health, it is getting better but a lot still needs to be done.”
She added that the film could have a higher age restriction not because of the violent scenes but because of the themes discussed.
“While I am all for getting younger audiences to understand mental illness and be aware about it, the way it was portrayed here was not the best way to showcase it to youngsters.”
Egyptian National Omar Mohamed Ghanem was all praise for the film and was happy that a character from the DC universe got his due credit. The 23-year-old businessman does agree that the film was very realistic.
It wouldn’t be a Joker movie if it wasn’t borderline psychotic. I think Phoenix and the writers really nailed this when it came to humanising the Joker.
“It wouldn’t be a Joker movie if it wasn’t borderline psychotic. I think Phoenix and the writers really nailed this when it came to humanising the Joker.
“He doesn’t come off as a supervillain trying to rule the world. He’s just a normal guy that had a series of unfortunate events, and one bad day sent him over the edge. I think that’s why so many people were in shock. The Joker felt so real, he could be someone they personally knew, or even themselves.”