Let's talk about the Dark Knight.
Naturally, I was moved and impressed. Almost everyone who sees it is. It is, as a friend put it, not a Batman movie, but a Batman film. When discussing the film's power, many people focus on the strength of the performances. But that shouldn't be allowed to mask the strength of the material the actors are working with. Thanks to the script, most of the major characters face a strong moral dilemma or two, and unpleasant compromises of their ideals.
Today, let's talk about Alfred.
Michael Caine's horridly lower-class accent, by the way, is still like an icepick in my ear, but it seemed a little less harsh this time, as if the icepick were wrapped in velvet while being shoved in my ear.
His character is the voice of tough love -- sort of an icepick wrapped in velvet -- and forces Bruce to realize when he has to make the tough choices in his own dilemmas, and what the right thing to do is. While he succeeds in helping Bruce make his moral choices, I think Alfred's tragedy in this film is that he badly errs when making his own moral choice.
Alfred faces one of the film's quietest and most intimate dilemmas, and his decision to destroy Rachel's note rather than share it with Bruce is also one of the most questionable. Clearly, he thinks Bruce has suffered enough, and a post-mortem rejection isn't really what he needs on his plate.
But, if your life has been anything like mine, you've been hurt far more often and more deeply by people ostensibly trying to spare your feelings than by people actively trying to hurt them.
Who knows? Perhaps Rachel's note might have helped Bruce move on and lessened his burden. In any case, it shouldn't really be Alfred's decision to make; Rachel left to Alfred the decision of when to tell Bruce, not whether to tell him. And make no mistake; Alfred doesn't hide the note away, he burns it.
In keeping the note from Bruce, Alfred is still treating him as a child, not an adult. He deceives Bruce by omission, and proves himself unworthy of the trust Rachel placed in him (and that's to say nothing of the trust that Bruce has placed in him).
Which is worse? Finding out that the person you loved, but weren't realistically ever going to get with anyway (who, I might add, has been very seriously dating someone else), and who's now dead, wasn't planning on waiting for you, or..
finding out that the person who raised you and who continues to be the person you trust more than anyone in the world deceived you about that fact?
Alfred's dilemma and decision don't engender any explosions, societal issues, or life-threatening situations. Yet, I find Alfred's quiet betrayal once the bitterest moments of the film, and perhaps the deepest cut of all.