joker opening scene

Todd Phillips got together with the good folks at Vanity Fair to break down the opening scene of his movie Joker. The scene is our first introduction to the tormented Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), the man who will one day become Gotham’s Clown Prince of Crime. Love or hate Phillips’ film, this is an interesting video and gives you a glimpse into what Phillips was going for with his ultra-dark comic book movie. Watch the Joker opening scene breakdown below.

Joker Opening Scene

According to Todd Phillips, one of the most important jobs of a director is tone, and the thing he’s most proud of with Joker – especially during its opening moments – is the dark, grim tone he sets for the rest of the movie to come. Phillips then takes us into the film’s opening moment, in which Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck sits in front of a mirror applying his make-up. As Phillips explains in the video, this scene was shot on location in a real space in Harlem.

“Everything in the movie is meant to be unsettling,” Phillips says. “So anytime we move the camera…it’s meant to give off this unsettling vibe of this guy.” During the course of the scene, Arthur struggles to literally put a smile on his face. Arthur sheds a single tear during the moment which makes his make-up run, and Phillips adds that Phoenix did that on his own during one take. He also says that he had the movie’s score, composed by Hildur Guðnadóttir, recorded before the movie was even made – which is very uncommon. Phillips wanted to be able to play the score for Phoenix and the rest of the crew to set the tone and mood for the movie, and Phoenix was listening to the score during this specific scene.

There’s a lot more insight here, both into the making of the film, and into the Joker as a character. Phillips addresses the Joker’s constant, off-putting dancing – it’s all over the trailers – and says that he told Phoenix he saw Arthur as someone with “music in his soul.” And that music continues as he transforms into Joker, going from playful, comical dancing into something far weirder. “There’s a grace to Arthur,” Phillips says. A grace that Arthur doesn’t really find until he becomes the Joker.

I gave Joker a positive review, but I also think the movie has its fair share of problems – specifically the script. That said, this video gave me a greater appreciation for the film as a whole.

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