Look, Listen, and Analyze- In Practice- The Dark Knight Joker Pencil Trick!

13 Jul 2020 admin

1st Watch-Thru (No Audio):
Opening establishing shot with mobster sitting at a table with his henchmen in the background. First cut to African American mobster also sitting at the table with his henchmen. After one beat hard cut to second shot of Heath Ledger’s Joker walking into the meeting from the back right of the kitchen set. All mobsters are situated to the left of the center of perspective. This shot is ten seconds long and it is a tracking shot following Ledger walk into the meeting. Hard cut to the third shot and Ledger is the center of perspective that ends with the camera ceasing its tracking motion and Ledger move closer into the frame to induce some ‘menace or insidious’ manner to the shot. Cut to the fourth shot and some of the mobsters are becoming agitated with this stranger intruding on their secretive meeting. Shot six is of Ledger calmly explaining his presence to the group, the camera did not change any distance or angle from the last shot. The seventh shot sees Ledger come from the left and stick a pencil which he had in his coat onto the table. The camera angle would be of that someone semi squatting but not at the level of the table. Move forward to the eighth shot and the camera angle moves in a fluid motion to follow Ledger impale a mobster with the pencil by slamming his head into the table. Making the pencil MAGICALLY DISAPPEAR (ooooooohhhhh-ahhhh).
I gotta say I’ve seen the Dark Knight multiple times but I think that that trick is the funniest joke that Heath Ledger pulls off as the Joker. Shots nine through twelve are in rapid succession and they all feature the Joker, or another prominent mobster center perspective. In these shots, the mobsters are deliberating amongst themselves whether this guy is as hardcore as they are or if he is absolutely crazy. Along with the Joker defending his actions and vilifying himself with some credentials. Without audio, it is hard to argue that the topic of discussion is none other than the Batman problem. Batman has become more and more of a nuisance for Gotham organized crime and is starting to affect mobster income, this cannot be allowed to pass without consequences, this is where the Joker comes into play. No audio is needed for the audience to know that this guy is off his rocker. Shot thirteen introduces Gotham mob boss Salvatore Maroni in a close up which is the first we see of the major comic crime lord in this specific scene. Most of the talking and arguing with the Joker is done by the lower-tier crime groups in Gotham such as the Latins and the Blacks. The 14th shot is a close up of the Joker speaking. The camera is most likely situated on the table making the lens eye level with Ledger. The 15th shot is a close up of a television set that is streaming the meeting back to another member of the board overseas in Asia. The shot following this is an extreme close up of the Joker calling the mobster on the screen out for being the one who would most likely rat them out, which then hard cuts to the mobster on the television cutting the feed because he was outed in front of his associates. Following his exit, the Joker’s point has been proven and the board of mobsters loosens up a tad. Now the camera angle reflects the shift in mood as the Joker appears now to be openly conversing with the group and they in turn are conversing with him on a more even playing field. Then the mood shifts to anger as the Joker wants HALf of the collective fund for solving the Batman problem, this does not sit well with the Black mobster as he figures why does this man have to be entitled to half of our funds when he just walks in here making only promises. The camera then shifts to follow Ledger getting up from the table to reveal his suicide coat filled with fragmentation grenades which are all attached to a single pull string that the Joker conveniently has around his right thumb. Following six close-ups going back and forth between the Joker and the black mobster, the Joker slowly backs away from the meeting table with the camera situated as if someone was standing at the table watching him leave. Just like leaving any interview the Joker leaves his contact information in the form of his ‘Joker Card’ and leaves the kitchen meeting area.
I did not mention the lighting up to this point as they are meeting in a well-lit kitchen in the back of the restaurant and there is no specified front or backlighting. Imagine a kitchen right before closing and that is the illumination that is present. The lights are not as bright as they have been on all day.

2nd Watch-Thru (With Audio):
Taking what I observed without audio and adding onto my observations with audio- the scene begins with a door opening and the Joker’s slow demonic laugh. The only music playing is the distinctive ‘menace’ theme from the film which plays whenever a character of true evil nature is nearby. Ledger’s first line in the scene is “And I thought my jokes were bad” which sets off the animosity in the room. Then the Joker slams his pencil into the table to begin his short magic show at the expense of the Black crime families henchmen. The audio is spaced out to give the audience a chance to absorb what they are hearing and seeing. To this date, no other film portrayal of the Joker has done as much justice to the fictional character as Heath Ledger did. I know I am supposed to be talking about the technical aspects of this scene but I cannot deny the quality of performance that Heath Ledger gave Batman fans. One that could have given the fanbase much more to be proud of had Mr. Ledger not passed away as early as he did.
Following his magic act, the Joker continues his introduction like any normal person would. The conversation that ensues is one of anxiety and intrigue. Where the Black mobster wants this “Joker” out of the meeting, taken around back and beaten, the Latin boss wants to hear him out and see if what he has to say is legitimate. His solution he presents in a very simple tone is “We kill the Batman”, he says it so casually like he thinks it is even feasibly possible to kill the Batman. The only DC comic villain that came close to killing Batman was Bane, the Joker is Batman’s biggest adversary because he loves to see the world burn, he could care less if he killed Batman because Batman is what drives him. It is almost as if the Joker and Batman have a love/hate bromance going on. This scene is filled with classic one-liners such as, “If you are good at something never do it for free.”. The way the Joker requests half of the collective crime fund is pure gold. He is like, “Uh, Half…” knowing he is going to catch heat for asking that much, which is part of the joke. The Joker is not crazy, he is a madman. When the Black mob boss gets up and slams the table his slam is louder than his speaking tone. There is also a rattle of the fragmentation grenade pins on his coat. Another classic one-liner, “We wouldn’t wanna blow this out of proportion”.

3rd Watch-Thru:
The whole scene is filmed at very close angles and the background audio is present but almost non-existent, if it was any louder it would take away a lot of weight from the scene.

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