Joker: Un-scripted Tai chi dance makes Joaquin Phoenix's performance spine-chillingly perfect

Joker (2019)

Joaquin Phoenix delivered a flawless performance as the Joker in the latest portrayal of Gotham's greatest villain. However, it was the surprising addition of tai chi that will cement Joaquin's Joker into the history books of villains.

It's minutes after Arthur Fleck has killed his first victim and perhaps the moment Joker was formed. In Arthur's complex mind, there was a sudden trigger. A trigger of relief.

No longer a victim of the cruel society that had bullied him into a hollow and empty shell, mocking his laughing condition (Pseudobulbar affect) and abusing his simple want for happiness, Arthur tasted empowerment for the very first time by gunning down three men on a train.

He retreated to the nearest bathroom, head to toe in clown costume with horrifying bright white make-up and red-painted lips to match. At a time where fear, rage and adrenaline should have been coursing through his veins, a haunting blanket of serenity consumed the room.

Among the blood, violence and scissors thrusted into eye-sockets, Joker's flowing tai chi in the flickering light of a run-down bathroom was the most terrifying scene of the movie.

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Joker's tai chi scene epitomises the yin and yang of his character

Before Joker was released (October 4th), few people headed into the cinema mentally prepared to feel empathy for Joaquin Phoenix's cold-blooded killer. 

With each merciless beating and through every hazy storyline that turned out to be nothing more than a heart-breaking fascination, you could feel the cogs of Arthur's mental health slowing turning towards revenge.

And as he revelled peacefully following his first murders, the yin and yang of Arthur and Joker were created.

Tai chi is a form of mixed martial arts although it focuses on grace and the meditation of movement opposed to striking and violence. It takes great mental strength, patience and discipline.

The Chinese martial art is also largely formed around the philosophy of yin and yang, which explains that contrasting forces in life often work together, like good and evil, light and dark or laughter and pain.

The impulse of Joaquin Phoenix brought his character to life

Some of most character defining scenes in history are non-scripted. Actors and actresses who embrace their character as one often perform acts of spontaneous genius that scriptwriters simply can't think of due to the unattached nature of their role.

Joaquin deeply studied the pseudobulbar affect - an involuntary fit of laughter and tears - and it gave Joker the character-defining edges that separate him from Heath Ledger and Jared Leto's portrayal. 

But what took the 2019 Joker to new levels wasn't even in the script. Joaquin involutionary moved his body to the sound of a Hildur Gudnadottir track as the camera crew waited to film the bathroom scene.

Joaquin explained to The National,

"I was really responding to the music. That bathroom scene was such a transformative moment, not only for the character but for us. We discovered a way of working.”

Joaquin is known to have studied karate over the years although nobody anticipated his off the cuff tai chi flow. Ultimately, it turned his Joker portrayal into a true acting masterpiece.

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