Suffering from insomnia, disturbed loner Travis Bickle takes on a job as a New York City cabbie, haunting the streets nightly, growing increasingly detached from reality as he dreams of cleaning up the filthy city.
Taxi Driver is dominated by the stark use of shadows, vibrant reds and omniscient camera movement amidst the nightmarish portrayed streets of mid-1970’s New York City. The hypnotic sensibility of the film operates as an attempt to incubate the viewer with the feeling of being in a limbo state between sleeping and being awake – like when a shot of Travis in his apartment is purpuously repeated and shown twice, giving us a glimpse into Travis‘s quickly plummeting mental state. He struggles with existential grief, but is not smart enough to get to the root of these issues. He is a walking contradiction. From talking about the scum of streets, while he himself frequents porn theaters and drives around prostitues, to him talking about maintaining a good diet while he pours liquor over his breakfast.
The camerawork beautifully serves the purpose of revealing Travis‘s loneliness and distance from society – he is a mishmash of various ideologies. Him not understanding the source of his turmoil, causes him to have breakouts of brutal violence. Generally, shots are slow and deliberate. Even so slow, that the camera sometimes can not keep up. This can be seen when Travis applies to be a taxi driver. While walking outside of the dispatchers garage, the camera looses him and we can see him walking towards the opposite direction of the moving taxis. This can be seen as an indicator of something not being right with Travis, something not going the right way. Another interesting visual play in Taxi Driver can be observed when Travis is on the phone with Betsy. It is a very one-sided conversation and while Travis is getting desperate, the camera moves away revealing an empty hallway around the corner. By not having any character of the conversation visible in the shot, the fact, that no real conversation is taking place is strengthened. Instead, we see the loneliness of the empty hallway and a feeling that Travis will be gulped up by the forces of isolation following his failed relationship with Betsy.
“When Brian de Palma gave me a copy of Taxi Driver and introduced us, I almost felt I wrote it myself. Not that I could write that way, but I felt everything. I was burning inside my fucking skin; I had to make it. And that’s all there is to it.” (1)
(1) Part of an Interview between Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader (Screenwriter) taken from the book “Taxi Driver”, written by Paul Schrader
January 13, 2018
If you like these Stills, make sure to buy the movie, it is our absolutely highest recommendation.
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