Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Origin of the Joker -- "The Man Who Laughs"

The design of Batman's arch nemesis the Joker was actually based off a character from the 1928 silent film, "The Man Who Laughs." You can find the entire film on youtube beginning here.

In the meantime, you might be interested in this famous scene. Gwynplaine, the man whose mouth was mutilated into a fixed grin as a child, returns home after being tempted by the Duchess Josiana to leave Dea, the woman he loves. Waking to find him home, Dea, who is blind, feels Gwynplaine's smile for the first time.


SuiginChou said...

"The blind are meant to pair off with society's fugliest."

If that isn't a politically incorrect message, I don't know what is.

I see the resemblance with the creepy grin and the smoothed-back hair (Nicholson's Joker), but other than that this guy seems like a lowly freak, not a grandiose criminal mastermind. (I'm not questioning the real roles; I'm saying that nothing about this man's physical appearance screams "Joker" to me *other* than the grin and hair). Moreso than the surgically-fixed grin (film #1) or clown makeup (film #6), I think the Joker's creepiness for me derives from his criminal methods (e.g. laughing gassing people to death) and from his complete disdain for the value of human life; or not even disdain (as that might imply neutrality) but his relish in killing people. The serial killer in him (if he be serial) or the genocidist in him (if he be genocidal) scares me much more than the grin. The grin (especially in films #1 and #6) just screams "freak"; Gwynplaine's tetanus-like grin is far, far creepier.

Kudos to the actor for holding that grin for so long. I have noticed that it is harder and harder for me these days to hold a smile (say I'm posing for a camera picture) for more than 10 seconds; after that, my entire face trembles and I have to let go. And I can't manage another smile without giving it a break. Hope I don't have a neurologic disorder ... O_o;