So, another all-important follow up to a very successful piece, you know I never shy away from a bit of pressure! This time it is ‘Checking Out’ to complement ‘Smile’, but is it a sequel, or a prequel? You tell me. After all, it is driven by the ever-revolving door of the Asylum and the acknowledgement that one can check out any time they like but can never leave. Did you spot that in ‘Smile’?
The narrative remains, it is just a different point in time. ‘Smile’ explored the contrast between the two Jokers in the room and raised the question as to who is the most dangerous? The one who is burning with rage on the outside, or the one who is oblivious to what burns from within, beneath their happy face? You decide.
That lyric, you must have heard it! The Eagles, ‘Hotel California’ has driven the concept and fits beautifully. The acceptance that mental health is an illness, not a state of mind is everything. The acknowledgement that it is so easy to fall back without professional help and loving support. Details within the scene such as ‘back so soon?’ highlight the digs from those who ring fence, dismiss, pour judgement and scorn on those who suffer, whilst also hinting at the thoughts from those who struggle where they are resigned to their fate and weighed down by their devil on their shoulders.
I have always been open with how the mental health side of the Joker movies has always gripped me much stronger than the other spectacular details. We can relate to it so much more, not that is necessarily a good thing. The complete mutation and utter devastation caused by someone being failed and left to fall is scary and scarily real. Why so serious? Because it bloody needs to be.
I love the response to ‘Smile’, a ‘Lost in Hollywood’ piece with a ‘Storyteller’ undertow. ‘Checking Out’ has turned out beautifully. One to be enjoyed by fans of the movies and its villains but also a piece of art that has so many subtle details that link to the concept. Look at the interaction of the crows for instance, subtle but shouty.
I have set this scene within the grounds of the asylum, dominated albeit not reliant upon by Heath Ledger’s Joker as it paces towards you, leaving utter carnage in his wake. It is that moment from the movie when he has just blown up the hospital but re-told in my own way. By placing this at the asylum it further supports the narrative, yet is he the most destructive? Joaquin Phoenix played the Joker spectacularly in my opinion, for reasons mentioned above. He is pictured, calmly sat as it all unfolds, yet what is he plotting? Who holds the key, or the trigger? Who or what is the trigger?
Yet, it is the two other instances of these Jokers that without doubt packs the biggest punch in terms of the mental health undercurrent. A solitary central figure, cast as dancing from the movie, lost in his own world of shit, yet twisted to resemble a conductor as he orchestrates others and his own downfall. Nothing can hurt him anymore; he has nothing else to lose. Cast your eye to the rear shot of Heath stood in front of the steps, head down. Checking in. Again. See hell, seek help.
Where shadows grow so tall, blackening the whitest of walls. Familiar and unfamiliar corridors roamed, desperate to get back to the place they knew before, but they just can’t kill the beast. Others will gather for the feast and stab with their steely knives for sure, that’s a given. Are they all just prisoners there of their own device? Are they hell.