This week our writers return to MUBIVIEWS with the classic American vigilante film TAXI DRIVER (Martin Scorsese 1976). As a regular favourite on lists of the greatest film of all time, what will our writers make of this critically acclaimed Neo-noir
Isolation is the most prominent and recurring theme throughout TAXI DRIVER (Martin Scorsese 1976) and Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) is a lonely and detached outcast throughout the film. In what is arguably the film’s most iconic scene, Travis practises with a gun in the mirror, evidence of his depressed and isolated mindset and represented by a subtle camera movement. While we are originally introduced to Travis in this scene as he sets himself up in front of the mirror, the camera quickly becomes the mirror, reflecting Travis exactly how he sees himself as he repeats the same words while confronting his own image: "You talkin' to me?"
While at first Travis’s words could be interpreted as being directed at the audience, the mise-en-scène tells a different story entirely. As Travis asks his reflection who he is talking to, the noticeable de-centring of the character as he appears to the right of the screen, not looking ahead but instead to his left, combined with the diegetic sounds of the world outside creates a scene that echoes and questions Travis's psychological state. Furthermore, the hustle and bustle of the outside world reflects the demons that Travis battles as an isolated character with past traumas and his anger at society is represented by the recurring presence of these overwhelming sounds throughout the sequence.
The scene in its entirety reflects insanity, as evidenced when Travis repeatedly asks his reflection the same question. This is followed by the repetition of words from his diary, intercut with scenes of him lying down and attempting to sleep. These moments signify a character with little grasp on reality, instead being governed by his thoughts with the same question running through his head. In this way, Travis is not confronting a potential antagonist in the mirror scene but rather himself as his grasp on sanity continues to slip away.
Every day this week a different writer will provide their perspective on our MUBIVIEWS film and each post will be open to comments from our readers. Watch TAXI DRIVER on mubi.com until 4 July 2017 and join the discussion!
One MUBI film, five perspectives, endless possibilities.