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|Darkness and Light - Page 2|
In Dark Knight, Ledger is the sadistic Joker, a role previously associated with Jack Nicholson's over-the-top comic turn in that role in the 1989 Batman. Ledger gives us a far scarier take on the clown of crime, making himself up to look like the tragically sad character from Il Pagliacci.
Dark Knight follows in the tradition of the gangster movies of the '30s and the film noir of the '40s, sucking us down into a world in which there's no safety, no hope, and no simple heroes—just villains and false heroes playing on our need for someone to trust and deliver us. (Where's Humphrey Bogart when we really need him? He was the old-fashioned hero who'd been to the underworld, seen its horrors, and returned.)
Dark Knight, was directed by 37-year-old British filmmaker Christopher Nolan, best known for mind-bending films like Memento, in which time runs backward and its amnesiac hero tattoos the things he wants to remember on his naked, skinny body. In the exotically filmed Insomnia, Nolan assaults with light—the blazing, inescapable light of midsummer Alaska, where it's perpetually midday.
Nolan's first Batman film was Batman Begins, an exploration of how orphaned billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne becomes a shadowy vigilante. It had enormous tension, psychological clarity, and tenderness. The film made the most of Christian Bale's earnestness and physicality in the title role, but was careful not to overdo the explosions and breaking glass. Dark Knight is far more nerve wracking and disconcertingly loud, as if it didn't trust the power of its own drama and our connection to its protagonists. The incidents and impact are startling, but the plot is hopelessly confusing.