Why is the film Joker so controversial?

Director Todd Phillips' film Joker tells the story of Batman's arch-rival. Rejected and humiliated by society, mentally ill Arthur Fleck becomes a killer clown. Widely criticised as excessively violent, the film is drawing strong reactions from Europe's press as it hits the screens.

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Nowaja Gaseta (RU) /

A cult character for the déclassé

Does Joker romanticise violence and perhaps even incite it? Novaya Gazeta sees how this could be the case but still thinks the film is great:

“Even the US army has got involved in the debate and declared that it would be on standby to suppress sudden outbreaks of violence during screenings. ... The hysterically laughing Joker, pushed to the edge by society, and the déclassé masses that are boiling over - these are communicating pipes filled with fire accelerant. ... In any case, Todd Phillips' work, which combines the elements of a blockbuster with radical auteur cinema, will become a cult film. It is temptingly frightening and full of alarming prognoses.”

Protagon.gr (GR) /

The story of a mobbing victim

This film tells the story of a man whom society has trodden underfoot, Protagon explains:

“It's a haunting look at the face - and mind - of a person who is crushed not just by the system. He is destroyed by all of us. In the film we hear his pain, feel his anger. The 'Joker' is not an extreme case, he could be anyone. He's the colleague we make fun of, the man in the queue who everyone pushes ahead of, the girl who thinks she's loved, the guy in the elevator who can't bear to look in the mirror and looks at the floor instead.”

Habertürk (TR) /

Something about the film that triggers reactions

Films don't spark such strong emotions unless they confront audiences with an underlying truth, columnist Mehmet Açar writes in Habertürk:

“If a film attracts so much attention, the real question is why a product of the imagination can be so upsetting... What this really tells us is that here on earth a lot of things are not working as they should. Joker holds a mirror up to the world. ... Once enough people have seen the film we'll be able to have a deeper discussion about these issues. For the moment I know only this: Joker is just a film, and you can't say it's a bad one.”

Krytyka Polityczna (PL) /

An outdated image of society

The film is a disappointment, Krytyka Polityczna sighs:

“The worst thing is that in the end the film leaves us with a very conservative political vision. ... Inspired by the crimes of the main character Arthur, the inhabitants of Gotham become a mindless mob in the throes of an orgy of blind violence. They're unable to express themselves politically. All they can do is call the police. Such an image is a rather unfair caricature of new protest movements, and strips them of all historical significance.”