Bane: That’s a lovely, lovely voice!
In college, a professor told us about a book called Backwards and Forwards, which analyzes the script of Hamlet beginning at the end, and working backwards to the beginning. She said that some theater programs use that book as an introduction to textual analysis. While I have never read that book, the idea of beginning at the end of Hamlet (after everyone is dead!) and working back to Horatio discovered the ghost of Old Hamlet always struck me as unique. I hadn’t thought about this book for years, until a few weeks ago, when I saw The Dark Knight Rises, and I realized that Bane could best be understood by working from the end of the movie.
SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!
At the midpoint of the movie, the audience is led to believe that Bane is the son of Raz Al Ghoul, the main villain in the first movie. The movie tells the story of Raz Al Ghoul’s child, and how one of the prisoners in The Pit became the child’s protector. The protector told the other inmates that the innocence of the child could heal their souls, and helped the child escaped. The audience discovers at the end of the movie that Bane was not the child, but rather the protector.
After hearing about how Bane protected Talia, Raz Al Ghoul’s child, I remembered a line Bane said earlier in the film, before bombing the city at the football game. Bane hears a boy soprano singing the national anthem, and he compliments the boy’s voice. At the time, I thought that line was funny, because it was so out of character for Bane. Up to that point, Bane had shown a callous indifference to other human beings. He murdered his minions without hesitation, and yet inspired such loyalty in them that one of them willingly committed suicide for him. He was menacing, but also calculating and intelligent. And yet, at the end of the film, we discover that Bane had once served as a protector, that he had recognized and respected the innocence of a child, and wanted to use his strength to protect the weak against the strong.
Bane is a terrifying figure in The Dark Knight Rises, though not as terrifying as The Joker in The Dark Knight. The Joker’s terror lay in his randomness, his love of chaos. As he told Harvey Dent, The Joker is “a dog chasing cars.” The Joker is a nihilist, a person who believed that there is no good or evil. Bane, on the other hand, is immoral rather than amoral. He follows a moral code, albeit an incredibly disturbing one.
But Bane is also a strangely sympathetic figure, far more than the other villains of the Batman trilogy, with the possible exception of Two Face. Bane was able to recognize the innocence of Talia as a child, and did his best to protect her, allowing himself to be assaulted by his fellow prisoners so that she could escape. He did not have to end up a villain.