Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Man Who Is Sleeping, That's Your Murderer

A lot of play has been made of The Dark Knight being some kind of political morality tale, supposed to offer us thoughts on the limits of publicly accountable institutions, on how much we might need men - and they are always men, at least in drama - prepared to do awful things to keep us safe in our beds at night. A lot of the film's narrative tension depends on what sorts of answers to those questions the main characters will decide upon, how far Batman and Harvey Dent are prepared to bend the rules in order to save the meaningful existence of those self-same rules. The problem, apart from the length and the failure to give anyone the kind of backstory against which their character can develop and their dilemmas acquire significance, is that those questions are kind of unintelligible in a world in which a single criminal, apparently without organisation or much money, can poison officials, kidnap policemen, rig boats and hospitals to blow, infilitrate various mafias, and the like at will, more or less by sheer force of personality. The rules the precise structure of whose value we're supposed to be wondering about are obviously inappropriate when you're confronted with an apparently omnipotent madman. Aristotle observed that gods and monsters live outside the polis: monstrous gods make a mockery of the idea of it.

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