FILM; a closer look at ‘Taxi Driver.’ Whether you’re 16 or 30, there comes a time when 100word summeries of films just isn’t enough. Twenteen encourages you to look closer...
The taxi cab is the symbol of Travis Bickle’s lost and roving aimlessness and alienation. The film opens with the image of the cab looming ominously, in slow-motion, through a thick cloud of smoke. The film constantly emphasis the repetitious, purposeless nature of Travis’ life and, by extension, the lives of many young men of his gender and generation. ‘Days go on and on, each indistinguishable from the next.’ There is a sequence in the film of seemingly endless traffic lights, cut to suggest a constant stop-andstart, reinforcing frustration, impotence. The first image of Travis himself is an extreme close-up of his eyes slowly scanning left to right. Herrmann’s score plays a jazzy saxophone over the image, and perhaps at first the voyeuristic intimation is not sinister: Travis is a cabbie after all; perhaps he is simply an onlooker, as we might imagine most cab driver’s would be, of his social milieu.
However, the saxophone is replaced with a foreboding roll of drums. The repetition, the voyeurism, is not numbingly benign: it is building towards an explosion. Travis is contained, for now, but his restraint is temporary, and the film prepares us for an explosion, an outlet for his cauterised masculinity.
'The slaughter is the moment Travis has been heading for all his life, and where this screenplay has been heading for more than eighty-five pages. It is the release of all the cumulative pressure; it is a reality unto itself. It is the psychopath’s second-coming.' (Schrader, 1974: 85). There is something theatrically stylised about these opening images. Travis’ roaming gaze is focalised, intent, to such a point that it seems strikingly exaggerated, and the following shots, showing the blurred, indistinct reds and greens of the gaudily-lit city, are the first stages of
our entry into a hallucinogenic psychology: Travis’ repression has warped his interpretation of the world around him. All he sees is as a result of his maligned status, and so the film recreates this for the viewer, binding us exclusively to the outlook of a madman. In fact, the only scene in the film which is not expressly seen from Travis’ point of view is the scene in which Sport (Harvey Keitel) dances in the seedy hotel room with Iris (Jodie Foster). This scene is smothered in cloying red light, the dancing uncomfortably sexualised by Sport’s protective yet amorous, father/lover attitude.
In short, it may be the only break from scenes dictated by Travis’ viewpoint, but it offers no release from the claustrophobia, the tightly bound frustration which typifies the film.
I met Joe at 16. He was interesting, he liked to read and he could write the pants off anyone else I knew. The thing about him is, he doesn’t give two shits about money. He just writes for the sake of writing. It took a long time for him to be appreciated for that. But since he started UEL and found Tessa, Tim and Helena, I know they can see it too. So he’s in safe hands.. happy reading... twenteen xX
The photo above was taken by Keira Cullinane.