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Taxi Driver is one of Scorsese’s most popular movies. It came out in 1976 and explores themes such as loneliness, exclusion, state of mind and murder. The film is significant for its symbolism and the way it conveys its message. The director plays a lot with visual storytelling. The incredible job of Michael Chapman as DOP, turns the well written story into a classic example of superb cinematography. Through camera angles, close ups and classic shots, the camera serves perfectly its purpose-to show New York through the eyes of Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro). Additionally, the spectator will be brought to the protagonist’s place and experience the world through the driver’s seat during his rainy night shift.

Scorsese makes his intentions clear as soon as the opening scene. This opening scene is worth analyzing, as it suggest one of the main themes of the film. It connects us-the viewer, with the protagonist. We see the streets of New York through the front windscreen, on a rainy night. People walking right and left, some crossing the street in front of the car. The rain and neon signs blur the image and make the spectacle confusing. Is this the way the movie wants us to feel? Absolutely yes. This opening scene goes on for some time. Before it reveals our protagonist, it has put us on his place and the hazy images through the waterdrops on his front window, is how the movie wants us to see the world. The music also helps.

From then on, the film follows the story of Travis Bickle. He is a lonely man who drives his taxi. He picks up his job believing that it will help him with his loneliness. Throughout the story, he meets many characters, clients who ride on his taxi and people he meets outside his occupation. These characters represent the good and bad. Also, Scorsese wants us to imagine New York and its inhabitants as a representation of human psyche.

Much of the scenes spend a lot of time describing the citizens. Additionally, Travis’ journal entries serve the theory that the city has a dark side. Moreover, the passengers riding in his taxi serve this idea. Many of them are disrespectful and make a mess, which Travis has to clean afterwards. Another passenger, played by Scorsese himself, gives gruesome details of how he thinks to murder his wife. Also, the other drivers make xenophobic comments and tell perverse stories. The director wants us to think of New York as a symbol for the human psyche. We all have a good side and a bad side. All these characters start to influence Travis, who is disturbed anyway.

Moving on the film introduces Betsy (Cybill Shepherd). This character is the completely opposite of what Travis has seen so far. She is good to him, she is polite and beautiful and gives him hope, at least in the beginning. Betsy works as a volunteer for the presidential campaign of candidate Charles Palantine (Leonard Harris) and Travis meets her at her job and even though he acts strange at first, she finds him charming. She is positive on him and gives him a chance. When Travis takes her to watch a porn movie however, she immidiately dumps him. Travis tries to apologize over the phone, in one of the best scenes in the movie, but to no avail. Betsy ends their relationship.

Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) and Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) in Taxi Driver

The end of his relationship with Betsy deteriorates Travis even further. He starts to show signs of dangerous behavior and vulnerable mental state. Betsy was everything that is good for him and since she is out of his life, Travis has nothing to fight the darkness with. He eventually dives deep in his misery, following a very dark path. He buys a gun, tries to save a prostitute called Iris and tries to kill Betsy’s employer, Palantine. After he fails, he returns to the brothel where Iris works and kills her pimp and a client. This completes his downfall and character arch.

Even though Travis Bickle is presented as a tragic character, his acts in the movie are described as heroic. The newspapers present his acts as heroic and he even receives a letter from Iris’ parents thanking him for saving her. Bickle encounters Betsy one last time towards the end of the film, but they quickly separate again. This shows the gap between the two and reveals how far Travis has fallen.

Finally, Bickle’s struggles mirror every individual’s own inner battle. Taxi Driver is a provocative and in a way philosophical film, which is rightly considered one of cinema’s masterpieces. It is a descent into Travis’ hell, an ever-lasting nightmare, from which we only see glimpses of his life. Through his eyes, we see the U.S.A. of that time, with many of that reflections being present even today.

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