Directed by Sean Cutler
Starring John Corby
Short Film Review by Daniel Reason
The Joker Journal is a short film by Josh Venkataraman and aims to give us some more insight into the mind of Heath Ledger as he prepared for his role of the Joker in the 2008 film The Dark Knight, which was directed by Christopher Nolan. Ledger’s performance is regarded by many to be one of the best performances in film over the past few decades, and, as a result, he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor at the 2009 ceremony, but due to his unfortunate death on 22nd January 2008, he did not get to see the impact of his performance.
It has been widely publicised how much work Ledger put into finding the right interpretation of the Joker, and this is something that the film achieves brilliantly. Sean Cutler’s direction shows an urgency and gives us a clear idea of what is going through Ledger’s mind. John Corby plays Heath Ledger brilliantly as he is able to deliver an emotional performance, and is also able to provide some humour to the film – especially when he attempts to find the perfect Joker voice, one of which sounds like an impression of Christopher Walken. It would be easy for certain elements of the film and Corby’s interpretation of Ledger to come across as disrespectful, but the film shows an appreciation and, most importantly, admiration for what Ledger managed to create. There is a clear arc shown here, as Ledger starts as a normal actor, but by the end he has been fully transformed into his character. Perhaps a criticism is that the transition is too immediate, and it would have benefited to see a few more “Heath” moments. One such moment that does gives us more of an understanding about the man behind the character, is when he is listening to his daughter on his phone. It is a very emotional moment as she asks for him to return home, but due to his dedication to his job must continue with his one month stay in the hotel room.
The score by Richard Kaydas is one of the film’s biggest strengths. It suits the tone of the short perfectly and makes it that much more engaging. There are some clear influences from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971), and this is an inspired choice, as not only do the deep chimes of the score suit the mindset of Heath Ledger, but it is also in reference to The Joker Journal itself, as Ledger used that film and Malcolm McDowell’s character, Alex DeLarge, as a primary form of influence. To accompany the music is the clever and inventive use of lighting, also by Sean Cutler. Cutler uses a variety of tones within specific scenes to demonstrate a journey of emotions and the continuing struggle within Ledger’s constant spiral into his character – the way the film has been edited, by Venkataraman, does a similar job through quick cuts that get us more invested into the story and give us that much more understanding. Where both the editing and lighting work best is when Ledger has been truly overwhelmed by the character, as they manage to demonstrate Ledger’s conflicting thoughts, while he struggles to achieve perfection.
The Joker Journal successfully shows Heath Ledger’s transition into the Joker, and does it with care. It is able to demonstrate Ledger’s commitment to the role and does it in a thoughtful, yet realistic, manner, while still being detailed and accurate to true events. For anyone that is already intrigued by this story, this is a definite recommended watch, but for those who, perhaps, are unaware of how much Heath Ledger did to get into character, then this will give you a clear insight and will highlight how much dedication acting can require.