Movie Soundtrack Wednesday #2 – JOKER (2019)

Words by: Giulia Lombardo

I remember when I was first going to see the new ‘Joker’ film at the cinema, and I was so excited to see this amazing dramatic movie, that everyone seemed so thrilled to have watched. However, I left the cinema so overwhelmed, not just because the movie is a rollercoaster of emotions, but especially because it is, without a doubt, a journey through one’s entire inner world. It is a reminder of the intense emotions felt by all of us, a reminder of the emotions that make us human, especially in a society that sometimes tends to dehumanise those feelings, and that functions under very strong and specific dynamics.

Stepping up in the world: Arthur Fleck becomes Joker

Todd Phillips’ film focuses on the figure of the iconic villain and his original story, unlike any other film about this famous character that has appeared on the big screen so far. Phillips’ vision of Arthur Fleck (aka Joker), played by the incredible Joaquin Phoenix, is the one of a man struggling to find his way into a fractured society, like Gotham. Trapped in a cyclical existence always poised between apathy and cruelty, Arthur will make a wrong decision that will provoke a chain reaction of events, crucial for the raw analysis of this character. Director Todd Phillips’s exploration of Arthur, a man ignored by society and that can’t seem to find his place in it, does not want to provoke only a concrete study of the Joker’s character, but a broader story that aims to leave a bigger message.

This insane journey we are all subjected to when captured by the extremely magnetic charm of the movie is reinforced by the captivating and unforgettable Oscar-winning soundtrack, composed by Hildur Guðnadóttir.

What I want to say by telling you that watching the movie was a rollercoaster of emotions, is that the ‘Joker’ put a wide smile on my face for making me, just moments after, feel a urgent need to burst into tears. Throughout the entirety of the two-hour long film, I felt like on a journey that made me want to laugh, cry, and experience anger, all along with Joker.

The theme of the whole soundtrack is this sense of solemnity, that is immediately identifiable in the opening of the album Hoyt’s Office. For instance, in the track, you can feel the disturbing tone that links together the entire score, which for this particular song is established by the presence of dark, moody, and rather depressing cello strings.

From the moment Frank Sinatra’s track That’s Life plays on the big screen, I felt a sense of disparity, which is crucial for the reading of the movie. That’s because the common denominator of both the movie and the soundtrack, is in fact the frustration from Joker’s own life as an outcast, as someone who finds it hard to find his life’s purpose. The ending lyrics of the song, “I’m gonna roll myself up and die” reflect Joker’s constant references to his desire to put an end to all of his pain: a pain he hasn’t brought upon himself, but that the society he finds himself battling against and the odds did not spare him. Despite the negative undertones the song gets when listened to in the context of the movie, it does not fail to make you want to get up and dance. That’s what the whole soundtrack plays on, this duality that matches the Joker’s character.

In fact, the movie bounces us off between tracks like Let It All Burn by Love Ghost, Rock and Roll Part II by Gary Glitter, Sunshine Of Your Love by Cream, It’s My Life by The Animals, and Summer in the City by The Lovin’ Spoonful – that are high energy songs that are perfect tracks to loose your mind (and dignity, if you aren’t exactly the best dancer like me) to on the dance floor – and Guðnadóttir compositions.

On the other hand, the Icelandic musician’s collection of songs, including Bathroom Dance, Call Me Joker, Hoyt’s Office, and Following Sophie, takes us away from the desire to dance and makes us reflect on the rather dark and melancholic aspect of the movie, driving us towards the desire to express the frustration and the anger that lies within all of us. These tracks are the ones that really make us identify with the beloved DC villain, because they intend to make us empathize with the emotional baggage carried by the unexpectedly relatable character that is the Joker.

Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker: unexpectedly relatable

For the film, Guðnadóttir has created an unforgettable majestic, evocative and dark soundtrack that follows the transformation of Arthur Fleck into the most famous villain from Gotham, and that lets the audience experience through the haunting and immersive music Arthur’s finding of Joker.

You can listen to “Joker” soundtrack here.

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