July marks the 10-year anniversary of Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster Batman film The Dark Knight, which starred the late Heath Ledger as The Joker, earning him a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Many are revisiting this performance and the film as a whole, including Patton Oswalt, who has come up with a very detailed theory on his Facebook page about Ledger’s portrayal as the Clown Prince of Crime, and his possible history with military interrogation.
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“He seems to be very good at the kind of mind-fuckery that sustained, professional interrogation requires,” he said. “The way he adjusts his personality and methods depending on who he’s talking to, and knowing EXACTLY the reaction he’ll get: mocking Gamble’s manhood; invoking terror to Brian, the “false” Batman; teasing the policeman’s sense of loyalty to his fallen, fellow cops; digging into Gordon’s isolation; appealing to Harvey Dent’s hunger for ‘fairness.’”
Oswalt then gave examples from the film to support his extremely thought out theory, with a focus on Joker’s exchange with Batman at the Gotham City Police Department.
“He even conducts a ‘reverse interrogation’ with Batman when he’s in the box at the police station — wanting to see how ‘far’ Batman will go, trying to make him break his ‘one rule,’” Oswalt added. “He constantly changes his backstory (and thus who he is). To Gamble and his henchmen, he’s an abused child (figuring that they were also the products of abuse and neglect). To Rachel, he’s a man mourning a tragic love — something she’s also wrestling with.”
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Oswalt then concluded his thoughts with Joker and Batman’s last encounter, highlighting more skillful tactics of an interrogator. “Even the language he uses when saying goodbye to Batman — describing their relationship as an ‘irresistible force meeting an immovable object’ — is the kind of thing an interrogator would say, ruefully, about a fruitless session.”
Whether Heath Ledger’s Joker fits into Patton Oswalt’s theory or he’s just the chaotic anarchist from Batman’s comic book lore, there isn’t a better time to revisit The Dark Knight and witness a performance that is still celebrated to this day.