warning: contains all kinds of spoilers. don't read if you don't want to know.
i saw this movie tonight for the second time. it was good to see it again to give things a little more time to sink in and at least let me try to understand and sort through the vast complexity of this movie. it is not only a very engaging and entertaining movie, it is also quiet a film filled with philosophical and artistic depth. granted the film is quite dark, demented, and disturbing at times--but often so is life. that is, if we allow ourselves to see it for all it is, which you could argue is something that this movie does. it may be full of evil, but in reality so is the world. so we should not hide from it, but really learn from it. there is much to learn from this film. still, i've been pretty appalled at the age of some of the kids parents are taking to see this film. there was a 5 or 6 year old girl sitting in the front row tonight. that just isn't right.
well i don't think i'll be able to organize all these thoughts into any flowing semblance, there is just too much there to put it all together. so here they are mostly at random, as they come to me.
heath ledger did an amazing job. i won't be at all surprised if the oscar goes to him. his character was by far the most interesting in the film, and probably one of the most interesting in all movies. he was an agent of chaos for sure. certainly a strong representation of satan--just out there to destroy everything. and the way he works. getting people alone, whispering into them, asking questions, raising their anger and using it against them. its almost like watching the screwtape letters. his tools--knives and dynamite, all about slashing things up and blowing it all away. he was the ultimate deconstructionist--with no leanings or sympathy for the supposed "good" or "evil." he broke down so many of the assumptions of what is good and what is wrong. and in that he exposed the deep flaw of pluralistic morality. which actually is something satan probably wouldn't openly do--it's much better if people don't realize those errors.
in fact the entire film showed that, on every level. "sometimes the truth isn't good enough...sometimes people don't need the truth, they need to have their faith rewarded." that is the final message the film offers as it is climbing to its end. but what is faith if it is in something that isn't true. it's deception. and the people in power are perfectly ok with deception, as long as it will ultimately help things.
on every level the film answers pluralistic morality with pragmatism, with what works. and usually always with what works in the immediate. people start dying, and the presented "solution" is for batman to turn himself in so that's what people demand, despite that it makes no sense. but it will work. people need a hero, so the lie is given because it will work for the good of the city. batman cannot know the truth, so rachel's letter is burned because it will work better for him to believe and have the strength for what he needs to do. which is to become an outcaste because it's what the city needs. it's still power and control, making the choices for what works, it just is supposedly done with good intentions--most of the time. but even that is also undermined.
in that sense they don't trust the people to be able to handle the truth. the truth about harvey would ruin everything, so they lie--for the good of the people. translation=the people cannot be trusted. yet just before there is the boat experiment, which is supposed to prove that people do still have good in them. but they still can't be trusted with the truth, with being able to have hope restored. faith and hope are therefore held up as very fragile things, things that must be shielded from the truth to really survive. unfortunately it's probably actually how a lot of people think and act in this culture, even those who hold their own faith.
the haunting thing is that the points made by the film in the different situations that arise are very realistic. it is probably how people would respond, the assumptions they would make, the action they would follow. you can learn a lot about our culture from this movie.
the film is also one that is very much for our time. it addresses the issue of wiretapping, of doing what is "needed" but "at what cost?" the inability of people to deal with the loss of human life and casualties--as that speaks to the war. when the "rules" are broken how people go crazy. speaks to democracy on the situation on the boat--how that works in theory but then no one will actually go through with it, will do what they need to do themselves. and it takes no sides. it asks the questions, and then shows why many of our given and accepted answers are wrong.
it totally undercuts the idea of schemers and control. how everyone is trying to work out their plans, but how easily those plans can be derailed. how little control people actually have. and that is true. the illusion of control. whether that be through power, or through any sort of rules. everyone will break the rules when people or things they care about are at stake. and that ruins any and all sorts of plans.
that was what brought harvey down. his character took a pretty hard fall from high idealism to sinister evil, and i'm not sure it was developed enough to be truly believable. but in the absence of schemes, when those fail, when the world is cruel he says, the only true morality is blind chance. that is the message of nihilism, as also portrayed in No Country for Old Men with another coin flipping killer. no one wants just chance though. that idea dies if the connection is made.
the decrying voice of the pragmatism of pretty much all of the "good" characters is the little boy at the end saying "but he didn't do anything wrong." right and wrong as typically defined don't really matter anymore though. what matters is that things get better. that the situation is fixed for the time being.
someone cares about right and wrong though. someone out there still wants the truth. is it the younger generations? will they see the horrors of tenderness as morality? that there are no limits to what that can bring--killing for love, stealing for the poor, lying for the better. it may seem like pragmatism, but does it really work? are we smart enough, insightful enough to know what it is we truly need and what will ultimately work? constantly making adjustments along the way? there are no true heroes this movie seems to say. everyone has their limits. everyone can fall, even the best of 'um.
only the truth can constantly endure, because it is just that--the truth. but not truth as a set of guidelines and rules, because that does not always endure. no, the truth as a person. that is the only truly trustworthy answer. though the movie goes to the opposite--in the absence of truth it must be the dark one who is willing to take on the scorn and ridicule to do what is right. maybe that sounds familiar to something like a cross. but is it taken on in the right way? i don't know. not with truth, but seemingly with love perhaps. can love exist without truth? is that just tenderness, which ultimately isn't the most loving thing, though it is seemingly sacrificial? will it ultimately work?
well i guess in the film world we'll have to wait another couple years to see.