joker film composition

JOKER FILM REVIEW + Cinematography Composition

Was on a Southwest flight yesterday and (finally) had the chance to watch the new JOKER film. And holy moly — was blown away. The film is unusually good, even considering it was made in 2019 (typically modern films are no good). Some thoughts:


Photographers will probably learn more from studying cinema than studying photos or photo books

Hundred million dollar budgets for these films means:

10000x more attention to detail for composition, framing, presentation, and production.

1. The cinematography is unusually good

joker film composition

I was watching the film, and shot some photos of the cinematography compositions I liked on my RICOH GR III in cross process mode in JPEG (small). Some thoughts:

First of all, it looks like they shot it on some form of film. Perhaps positive (slide) film. Looked like Kodachrome– reminds me of Bruce Davidson’s “SUBWAY” photo book. Very ‘film noir’ vibes– high contrast, dark shadows on the eyes. I love the sense of grit and grime, especially in color.

And this is the big thing:

I find almost all films (modern and old school) quite boring. None of it can hold my attention.

But the reason why JOKER was so great:

The cinematography was great *AND* the story line and the character development was also phenomenal!

Also a great combination of pace, the ‘Sixth Sense’ moments (hallucinations) and how it keeps the viewer engaged. You aren’t sure what is real and what is fake … what is reality and what isn’t reality … which is great.

2. “I used to think my life was a tragedy, now I realize it is a comedy”

One of the best lines in the film.

What it means is this:

When we think about ‘tragedy’ — you are the hero but life is unusually unfair and cruel to you.

However when we think about ‘comedy’ — you are the clown, reality doesn’t give a fuck about you, and is *still* unusually cruel to you. Nobody to laugh but you to yourself.

3. The upside of extreme films

What I love about JOKER:

It doesn’t try to be “realistic”.

Also interesting … it was filmed in 2019, but kinda predicted or was an omen to the recent Black Lives Matter Riots in Minneapolis.

4. Small details

Small details I really liked in the film:

  1. The Virgin Mary in Joker’s apartment
  2. The close-ups on the photographs (memorabilia of the Joker), as well as the ‘Pardon my laughter condition’ cards. Made the film seem much more relatable.

5. Catharsis

Once the Joker realizes he was in-fact adopted (and not the biological son of Bruce Wayne’s dad), and the fact that his mother is in fact crazy, then the Joker is able to actually be reborn.

6. Life is a comedy, so perhaps we should just laugh!

Certainly we could just stand around, mope, and bemoan the fact of how cruel life is to us. But in fact… this is what makes life beautiful.


  1. Best to highlight the cruelty and injustice of life
  2. More films should be filmed on 35mm film (aesthetically far more beautiful and timeless).
  3. Color combinations are essential. Note the color scheme of Joker — green hair, white face, red/yellow jacket and suit.
  4. Surprise the viewer and don’t dumb it down for them.


Cinematography and life lessons:

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