The Depiction of Occupy Wall Stret Movement In The Movie of Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Depiction of Occupy Wall Stret Movement In The Movie of

 Dark Knight Rises (2012)   

Tori Nuariza Sutanto


The Dark Knight Rises (2012) is the third series of Christopher Nolan Trilogy of an epic story of The Gotham City Hero called Batman in which the continuation of Batman Begins (2005) and the Dark Knight (2008). It is released in July, 12 2012. This third series of Batman’s movies publicly provokes controversy in the depiction of Bane’s movement as the potrayal of Occupy Wall Street Movement. This papers will reveal the depiction of the Bane’s Movement in the middle of the rise of OWS movement in U.S and its significance. 


Film is portrayed as the most effective weapon to shape the people mindset and perception. Film can be seen as a device to spread the ideology. Douglas Kellner views Film which can represent the social struggles and also transcodes the political discourse of the era (Kellner, 2010:2). People could express their ideas, belief, or their political side through the film. Al Jazeera Television channel through the Empire program : Hollywood and the War Machine explained that some films, for instance, Black Hawk Down (2001), Transformes; Revenge the Fallen (2007), Top Gun (1986), Pearl Harbour, Iron man (2008) were some examples of symbiotic relations and mutual exploitations between Hollywood and the Pentagon, Department of Defense Liasson Unit. Those examples emphasizes the correlation of using film as an effective media to spread political and ideological interest and how the audiences as the object of commodity politically and economically of movie industry. Hollywood contributions as movie industry in the U.S to promote and keep the neoliberal democracy agenda and capitalistic value is usual to keep the U.S strong and save from the external ideological invasion

In July 12, 2012, Warner Bross Pictures released the third series of Batman Trilogy The Dark Knight Rises. This film was succesfully raising the audiences pleasure because of the dynamics story, entertaining effects, cinematography and the story of deconstruction of heroic symbol of Gotham city. Nolan explored the meaning of Batman in such a way dynamically playing the audiences emotions. What made this series of Dark Knight Rises became controversy was the depiction of Bane’s movement through this film. Some left wing film critics said that Dark Knight Rises political agenda was depicting Occupy Wall Street Movement (OWS) as a negative mobilized people power who threatened the prospect of U.S Democracy. Bane’s movement potrayed as a violent brutal revolution by the masses of the Gotham City that changes the status quo of the democratic government. Perhaps, the concept of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat in which was the governmental system of communism represented in the Bane’s Movement.

The controversy depiction emerged, as what Nolan arguments that the image of Bane’s revolution related of the reign of terror in the Charles Dickens ‘Tale of The Two Cities’ and he created the storyline before the Occupy Wall Street Movement arose. In this way, there was two sides argument, the Bane’s movement as representation of OWS and the other was the representation of kind of revolutions in the Dickens Tales of the Two Cities. This papers will reveal the depiction of Bane’s movement by scrutinizing with the cinematography elements of the film relating to the socio-political context of American society in the period of 2008-2012 the time after the last sequel published.


Semiotic Film Theory

Film contains sign with meanings. Christian Metz argues that film is not a language system (like french, english, spanish) but certainly it is a language (Monaco, 2000 : 157). According to Metz film is like a language because firstly, film structure resembles the structure of natural language and language is characterized as a means of signification. Film is like a language because film is a communication means in which messages are transmitted (Monaco, 2000:157). Metz emphasizes that film is understandable not because people understand its system first, but because the people understand the film first (Monaco, 2000 :157).

According to Barthez concepts of sign, sign in film can express denotative and connotative meaning. Movie is able to communicate dennotative meaning through its visual and audio representation that nearby portray reality. Dennotatively, film audience perceives what they see on film as it is. Connotative meaning is constructed from what and how the object is shot. Connotative meaning of a movie can be constructed through its cinematic signs which called language of the film such as misc-en-scene and cinematographic elements. As one of the the cinematic signs which can generate meanings, The cinematographic elements functions as the way to understand meaning in the film. That is why the semiotic film theory is needed in the film analysis. 

American in the late 2000s

            In 2007, the U.S was caught in recession. Three top economist even called it as the worst economic condition since the Great Depression. It forced Americans to live in anxiety and fear. The middle class was in fear of becoming homeless and losing their wealth. The number of unemployment of U.S citizens dramatically increased. Consequently, most American felt insecure about the future. The 21st century economic recession triggered unstable economic condition. In this way, America in the late 2000s was entering the new era of political orientation and social change. This period marked with the feeling of worry, insecurity, and distrust with their own future.

            Inspired with the success of Arab Spring revolution, some Americans whose frustated with the U.S economic recession created grassroot movement with the same pattern by using the social media and internet networks. This movement called themselves as Occupy Wall Street (OWS).


Occupy Wall Street Movement  

Occupy  Wall Street Movement (OWS) began on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District, USA. Thousand mass of people gathered, built tent, brought posters, demonstrated in the New York City, USA. The masses were aware about the fall of global capitalism, as the system has a doctrine of laizzes-faire and no state policy interventions in terms of economic but finally the collapsed of multinational corporations demanded bail out from states when it went into bankruptcy. What the popular statement of OWS is “The one thing we all have in common is that we are the 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%”.

The participants came from some of political mainstreams such as left wing activist, environmentalist, feminist, world peace activist, and labor union. OWS movement chose the New York Wall Street as the  symbol of world economic center of global capitalism. This movement emerged because of the 2008 great economic recession attacked in the U.S as a consequence of Subprime and Mortgage case, then the recession influenced worlwide particularly European Countries since the economic crisis attacked European countries.

The characteristics of OWS movement were the hetereogenuity of its movement that the participants coming from some political mainstreams and questioning the global capitalism. They demanded ; the break up of International Monetary Fund (IMF), democratization in the world economy institution, and the abolishment of developing countries debts. The problems seen by protesters was the distribution of wealth dominantly to the 1%. OWS wanted the goverment to redistribute the wealth in the society. Some scholars said, the point agenda was not debating about free market versus controlled economy but a continous choice between kind of regulations and how the government distribute wealth in society (Sutanto, 2012 : 5)  


Bane’s Movement ; the synonymous of OWS

The controversy depiction appeared publicly when the trailer of The Dark Knight Rises (2012) released, sending message to the audiences by focused on the scene of Selina Kyle (Anna Hathaway) whispered to Bruce Wayne at a dance in the exclusive upper class gala dinner. “There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.”

 Considering the use of cinematographic element that is camera distance, close up/head shot  in the scene of Selina Kyle talked to Bruce Wayne at a dance in the exclusive upper class gala dinner, forces the audiences to see what the Director intends. Selina revealed and warned Bruce Wayne about the future of Gotham City. A storm was Selina Kyle regarded as Bane’s underground movement with alliances of John Dagget and also Bane’s plan of taking control the authority of Gotham, the corrupted city.

The decision of using ‘pannings’ in the scene that the camera pivots along the horizontal axis, sweeping to the left or right intended to introduce the setting, as characters taking in a situation. The setting of the scene is an exclusive dinner party of the rich class, a charity ball. Those people who served as the philantrophist that they gathered a charity for the society. It is the critics of the disparity and gap between rich and poor that Selina Kyle talks to Bruce Wayne, the rich class should distribute the wealth for the society.  

   Contextually, the choicing words, live so large and leave so little for the rest of us was the same with OWS protesters popular statement we are the 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%, worrying the disparity and the gap between rich and poor. The scene of violance of the streets and the stock exchange crashed strengthen the connection between bane’s movement and the OWS. First, Bane’s plan started with the stock exchange crashed, then he mobilizes people to take control of the city. This design is unavoidable connection with OWS movement in which emerged because of U.S recession in 2008 and  the same location of New York City Wall Street. Second, what Bane’s speech in the  front of the Gotham Prison was condemning the rich and powerful and willing to restore the power of the people. The emotional-offensive-political rhetorical statement ‘take control of your city, take your city back’ is a commanding action that means to occupy Gotham City.

New York as the world center of capitalism with the Wall Street, Stock Exchange, Sky-Crapers, and etc decided as the location of the Dark Knight Rises (2012). I would like to emphasize that the OWS movement began in the september 2011 in Manhattan. Months later, Christopher Nolan produced The Dark Knight Rises. Pointing on the focus setting of Stock exchange crashed, a mobilization of the people in Manhattan, and condemning the corrupt, the oppressor, the rich as the same feelings of what protesters of OWS movement.  The same location shares the same atmosphere that creates the same spirits. The audience will get intention of the film since, the most audiences know the New York City surroundings. It is knowledge of the film that will creates the understanding of the film. The film strenthen the arguments of Bane’s revolution as same as the OWS movement in terms of location, spirit, and demands.

It has been debate since Christopher Nolan expressing the Bane’s movement was not associated with the any movement by pointing its root in the Dickens, A Tales of The Two Cities. Nolan’s argument broke with the unavoidable connection of both movement above. Like, what The Dark Knight Rises Producers, Michael E. Uslan said that the film was emotionally impactful and thematically important. It is not aimed at any specifies of modern U.S politics. That’s because none of us can avoid the fact that the issues of both the film and the OWS movement are unavoidably connected.


21st century of Communism

            Movie at least has two purposes, reflecting the public opinions and sentiment today and following the issues or the mainstream. Concerning to the psychology of the audiences as the object commodity of the movie industry, movie affects the fact, imagination and the hope of the audiences. That is why, in the history of movie industry, United States used movie to affect their society. In 1930s, movies function as an escape of the economical challenge. In the era of World War II, movie function as a term of propaganda, the issues pointed on Nazi Germany film versus United States of America. Therefore, in the 60s the film genre changes into the science-fiction as a respond of the growing tension of the Cold war, the Communism versus Democaracy and socialistic economic values versus capitalistic economic values.

            This paper sees history of film repeated even in the new pattern  through the film of the Dark Knight Rises (TDKR). The depiction of Bane’s revolution in this TDKR provokes the idea of Dictatorship of the Proletariat reflected on what Nolan contructed in the Bane’s revolution. Slavoc Zizek (2012), Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst, wrote what Nolan contructed of Bane’s revolution as the People Power of the Republic of Gotham City, the imagined event of dictatorship of the proletariat.

            The writer aggree with the contruction of the Dictatorship of The Proletariat since this film portray Bane revolutions as the brutal and anarchist people power. The following explanation will strengthen my arguments above. The climax scene of Bane’s movement was his speech in the front of the Blackgate Prison. Analyzying the connotative meaning through the cinematographic elements, the decision to use ‘low angle’ to shot Bane. It is aim to shot characters to be more powerful and intended in commanding his troops. The show of Bane power and mobilization of the masses created meaning of an anti-communist message since the idea of Dictatorship of the Proletariat came in the  era of Stalin Soviet Union and the Red Scare Communism in the China. The anti-communist message that there will be no political access to the people, all country asset will be controlled by the country and the society were divided the assets depending on the leader decision. The Bane’s revolution sent anti-communist message also in the future event after Bane’s declaration, that dramatically the poor took asset of the wealthy, neither of the people has power, and they lived in the anxiety and fear of the Dictator Bane. “take control of your city, take your city back”, was the strong rhetorical way of commanding the redistribution of the wealth, this is the epistemology of sosialistic economy, collectivism. The direct clash between individual economy versus collectivism, the laizess faire versus protectionist-intervention, the liberal democratic leader versus the dictatorship of the proletariat.

            What my arguments above strengthen with the rhetorical meaning of Bane’s speech in the front of Black gate prison. “……Condemning the rich, the oppressor, and the corrupted, will give all back to you, the people of  Gotham, Gotham is yours, used as pleased”, then he drawing the phase of his actions, “destroying the Black Gate prison, Freeing the oppressed, step forward those who would serve, form an army will be race, the powerful will be rip off, and cast out to the cold world, courts will be convened, spoils will be enjoyed, blood will be shared,the police will learn to serve true justice, this great city will be infinite…..”. the statement of ‘Gotham is yours’ was the imagination of socialistic point of view of collectivism, but unfortunately it is depoliticized by Nolan as the construction of the movement that was brutal, totalitarian, and anarchist.

            The depiction of OWS movement in this film meant as the taking power of the status quo democratic government, by mobilizing masses is unrealistic and absurd. This film softly shaped the mind of the audiences that the future of OWS movement will be synonymous of the Bane’s revolution. The Dark Knight Rises film unavoidably brings the the danger of 21st anti-communist movement reflected in Bane’s mobilization and drawing the negative affect of the psychology of the audiences. As what I emphasized above, that movie affects the fact, imagination, and hope. In this context, TDKR depicts OWS movement as the Bane revolution. It affected the prospect of OWS movement particularly in the U.S, the imagined event of the Dictatorship, and the breaking the hope of the society of radical change.


            Movie affects the fact, imagination, and hope of the audience.  The Dark Knight Rises depicts OWS movement as the synonymous of Bane’s revolution in which was brutal, anarchist, and totalitarian. The center of the Dark Knight Rises was the People Power of the Gotham city because its significance of constructing the prospect of OWS movement. Socio-politically, this film was following the issues of the recession that the period 2008-2012 marked by the feeling of insecurity, fear, and anxiety about their own future. The released of a fictional hero characters precisely became an escape of what American society felt.


Christopher Nolan, interview in Entertainment 1216 (July 2012, p. 34) accessed in June 5, 2013        

Empire Television Channel. 2011. “Hollywood and the War Empire”  

Kellner, Douglas. (2010). Cinema Wars : Hollywood Film and Politics in Bush-Cheney Era. Wiley-Blackwell.

Monaco, J. (2000). How to Read A Film (8th ED). New York, NY : Oxford University Press.

Sutanto, T. Nuariza. (2012) “Occupy Wall Street Movement As a Form of Political Disobedience not a 21st century Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience, accessed in June 5, 2013

Stahler, Kelsea. (2012)“Politics of the Dark Knight Rises : is Batman of the one percent or the 99 ? “ accessed in June 5, 2013  

Villarejo, Amy. (2007). Film Studies : The Basics. New York, NY : Routledge

Zizek, Slavoc. (2012).”The Dictatorship of the Proletariat in Gotham City on the Dark Knight Rises” accessed in June 5, 2013 


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