Look, Listen, and Analyze: The Joker Pencil Trick/Mob Scene

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For this blog post, I decided to analyze a scene from The Dark Knight, more speficially, the scene when the Joker interrupts a mob meeting and dramatically shows them “a pencil trick” with very dark and dangerous connotations.

When I watched the clip without any audio: I noticed the camera angle was almost continuously moving. The camera followed behind the Joker when he approaches the mob meeting and you know it’s coming from behind him because the right side of the shot you can see his left shoulder and tufts of his greasy, curly hair. Like Ebert described, when the camera angle points upward, like it did when the Joker was standing directly in front of the mob, it alludes to an aura of dominance. The vast majority of the mob members were sitting down at this point, so the camera would pan between up shots of the joker speaking and downward shots of the mob sitting around a rectangular table.

I also observed a significant amount of close up shots of characters involved in this scene. It seemed that whoever was speaking had a steady shot on his face. The camera would pan back and forth between the Joker and different men in the mob who were speaking… asking questions perhaps? or maybe insulting him? Without audio, it became an educated guessing game. In order to make an educated guess as to what the dialogue was conveying, I relied mostly on the facial expressions and bodily gestures of the characters. The one African American mob member who the camera focused on several times had facial expressions of disgust and anger, while his bodily gestures included when he dramatically shot up out of his chair, most likely out of rage at whatever the Joker was saying. The other two mob members the camera focused on seemed irritated, yet amused by what the Joker was saying. Their faces displayed less anger and more confusion and annoyance– as if the Joker was wasting their time. The Joker’s close up shots were interesting as well. To me, it felt like the angle kept inching closer and closer to his face, illuminating the truly horrifying features of his facial appearance.
**When the camera was not focusing on a face, the shots were mobile, making the room they were in feel a lot larger than it probably was.

Another aspect of the scene that I noticed was when the Joker was pointing what appeared to be almost directly at the camera. In this case, we, as the audience, took the place of a character in the scene, giving the audience a “front row seat” to the action, if you will. Watching this scene without any audio further proves Ebert’s assertions that camera angle plays such a huge role in the overall effectiveness of a film that, in some instances, dialogue is not even a necessary aspect of a film for it to make sense and for the audience to understand what is happening in a given scene.

When I watched the clip without any visual: When simply listening the scene without any visuals, I found it much more difficult to analyze than when I viewed the clip without any sound. This might be because of my learning style, but either way, I came up with several observations. First, the deranged laughing at the beginning of the clip, I can only assume that signified his entrance into the room where the mob was having their meeting. The differences of the voices individualized each character. One man had a very deep, throaty voice. He sounded like he was a high up official of this mob group, especially since he felt comfortable confronting and threatening the Joker. The next voice I distinguished had a Russian or possibly Scandinavian accent, allowing me to understand this was a different member of the mob talking now. Later on we heard an Asian man speak, therefore, we know that this is a very diverse mob just from listening to their voices.

As for the Joker, his voice was the most distinguishable out of all of them. The Joker had a creepy, disfigured mouth which interrupted his pattern of speech several times. He also held a consistently calm tone the entire time, which was different than the mob members who spoke. Their voices gave off vibes of anger, confusion, and indifference. However, the Joker remained calm and utilized dark comedy to capture the attention of the men he was proposing his idea to. He even goes as far as to mock them a little bit, especially when he calls their mob meeting a “group therapy session.” Then, finally, we hear a swinging door slam and it can be inferred that the Joker left the room at that moment.

My conclusion of the sound/visual together: I thought listening and watching the scene individually gave me a greater understanding once I was able to watch the clip with both aspects cohesively. It put the scene in a more story telling format, but I still understood what was happening within the scene without requiring both audio and visual. My senses were heightened each time I viewed the clip, with my brain actively searching for features of the dialogue and cinematography that would give me clues as to what the expect. When I watched them together, I obviously felt more comfortable. I would prefer the films I watch to have both visual and audio, in order for audiences to gain access to the “full picture.” However, I thought this assignment was great because it forced me to critically think about what features of the dialogue and what features of the video stood out and illuminated how the plot would continue. It was actually very fun to do!

4 thoughts on “Look, Listen, and Analyze: The Joker Pencil Trick/Mob Scene”

  1. It seems like the video you have imbedded does not work because it is set to private. Maybe find another clip of the same scene from a different youtuber. Also, you had a great analysis of the scene, but I feel like you should have discussed more of how the camera placement and character placement played on your emotions. The trick here is to disregard the actors and analyze the film at its most basic form. Discuss how effective the camera placement and character placement was for the scene. Why do you think the director chose those specific positions and were they successful?

  2. You were very detailed in your observations. I tried to watch your clip, but it said video set to private. I have seen the scene before and I cannot remember the camera scenes, but I do remember the joker standing and everyone else sitting. I can imagine there being a lot of upshots toward the joker giving him that presence of dominance. You mentioned a lot of camera movement in your visual observation and a lot of voices making your sound observation confusing, therefore you picked up what the director was conveying in both observations. This review I feel was very well done.

  3. Killer choice!

    Literally.

    I hadn’t thought of all of the noise in movies, before this assignment.

    It was cool that you pulled all that out of just Audio.

    Do you think that it will affect the way you watch movies in the future?

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