I saw "Dark Knight" yesterday. Again. The difference being that this time it was in the IMAX Dome in Wadala. An awesome cinematic experience. The Dome setting brought out the appeal of the visual imagery, the action sequences, the sounds of the movie.
And I was left marvelling yet again at the insane vagaries of one of the most terrifying villains of all time (whether fictional or real) - The Joker.
It is not easy to understand exactly why the Joker is so scary. You watch his antics, you watch his horrifying deeds and slowly, like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, things start falling in place. But one does not get a complete picture.
The Joker as an antagonist is frightening because he shakes your beliefs to the very core and does something truly unexpected - he far exceeds the set of normal "expected unexpecteds" that you have implanted in your mind.
People set rules, regulations and impose restrictions on themselves in order to ensure a beneficial social order, in order to prevent excesses, in order to develop a sense of progress an achievement. They attempt to understand, to adapt to their environment & then to manipulate it to their advantage - to control, to direct towards such ends as each one might have.
The Joker turns all of this on its head. He's a self-described agent of Chaos, who does not believe in rules. He does not have ends. He has means, & in the absence of ends, does not know what to do with them. He's like "A dog chasing cars", who would not know what to do with one if he caught one.
It amuses him to see people who try to control things. People who formulate plans and who think things will go go according to them. He wants to prove that that people do not know what to do once their plans fall apart. He's an entity who wants to test the infallibility of people merely to prove that they are going to fail. He pushes them to their limits to prove that they will falter.
The Joker thinks that people desire control over their surroundings, their environment, their fate, other people. It is to such people that the Joker poses a threat. He brings them down to their knees. He brings down the Mob, which hungers for money & harbours the notion that things will be back to normal once Batman is dead. He brings down mentally-ill people, who, relatively blamelessly, believe that they will regain control of their minds with the Joker's help. He brings down the corrupt police officials, who betray their fellow officers for money. He brings down Jim Gordon, who in his zeal to capture him, overlooks the danger of corrupt people within his own team. His greatest triumph is the fall of Harvey Dent, the incorruptible White Knight of Gotham City, who is maddened by the loss of the woman he loves and who blames the external environment for it. Dent loses control over himself; He starts believing in the fairness of Chaos; He believes that it was an indecent world which was cruel to him & the way to tackle it, the only morality is, Chance.
How does one defeat such a person? Men like the Joker only want to "Watch the world burn". They are not looking for anything logical. They cannot be bullied, reasoned with or bribed. As he says when Batman is interrogating him for Dent's & Rachel's locations, "You have nothing, nothing to threaten me with."
The way out lies in realising the gap in the Joker's ideology, the one thing that he has not bargained for - People who exercise control only over themselves, instead of everything else. Those are the people who are able to defeat the Joker. Rachel Dawes, who does not flinch from death right till the end. The people in the two ships who master their fear & let their trust in humanity surface; The ones who choose to not succumb to the mistrust induced by him. And most importantly, Batman. The one who chooses to see himself become a villain, an outlaw, a hated figure - because HE's internally at peace with what he is doing, because he knows what he is doing is right. He does not seek control over the opinion of the people of Gotham City. He does not desire fame, adulation, praise. He's able to let go of it all because of his steely resolve, the belief that what he's doing is right. He realises that he has control only over himself, he can only shape things by the way he reacts to situations.
The Joker is a villain of our times - senseless, purposeless, without any morals or rules. I see him in various forms everywhere - in criminals who commit the most dastardly crimes, in terrorists who kill innocent people, in the driver who kills in a fit of road rage, in the student who goes on a shooting spree, in the distressed executive who commits suicide, in the intolerance of the moral police & religious fundamentalists - everywhere when people lose control over themselves & become agents of Chaos.
Without a doubt, one of the finest characters created in cinematic history.