What started with me drowning in the depths of the eyes of Patrick Verona, the ‘juvie’ bad boy with his manly charm and brown curls never really ended, even though it’s been almost 12 years since those eyes lost the light of life.
By the time I saw the Dark Knight, little did I know Heath Ledger was already dead or that he was the same 19-year-old who had stolen my heart in ’10 things I hate about you’. When I did put two and two together, it was too late to share the grief of his loss – people had numbed to his death by then while I was suddenly dealing with fresh punches to the gut, re-watching his films, reading the news pieces of his death with a face to it now, a face I recognise, a laugh I can’t seem to forget, and that wide smile that just melts me into a sloppy mess on a hot day.
I sat to watch the Joker today, recreated by Joaquin Phoenix and team – still in two minds as the opening shots rolled in. I didn’t want to betray Heath’s memory but I wanted to know what the hype was about. As the scenes played, there were places when I imagined Heath in place of Joaquin or how Heath would have handled the scene or how different the body language would have been. Obviously, all of this is just mere conjecture of Heath’s image in my mind but isn’t that what fans do – juxtapose our idea of a celebrity onto their persona?
By the time the film ended, I had forgotten about both Heath and Joaquin – the character had taken over my senses, making me jump in my seat, spout expletives, rub off the goosebumps lining my arms. That itself speaks volumes about the absolutely stunning work the team has done! Maybe the film wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
But. Is Heath Ledger the Phoenix or is Joaquin Phoenix the one?
Call it what you may – my fondness for Heath, or my first taste of blood being the Joker from Dark Knight, or a soft spot for the dead, or the relentless anarchist Heath’s character was, or simply blind fanaticism – but I’d still turn to the Dark Knight to watch my share of creep. Maybe Joaquin’s Joker seems too real, too close, too human? Or maybe Heath’s Joker explains the mania all of us have but are afraid to explore?
Never mind what I feel, the Joker is here to stay and go down in the rolls of history once again, for sure.