Taxi Driver (1976): “You talkin’ to me?”

Written by Eleanor.

Taxi Driver--(None)

Travis (Robert De Niro) is a Vietnam ex-veteran, who tries to readjust to the society of the US. Suffering from insomnia, Travis becomes a taxi driver and wonders around the city all night long.  Starting with one of the most memorable opening scenes in the history of cinema, Scorsese uses a close-up on Travis’ eyes. Travis wanders around the city with the look of a man, who observes, doubts and investigates. Travis claims to be “[…] God’s lonely man”, who carries the duty to become the ‘savior’ of New York and the ultimate hero. He wants to ‘clean’ New York from all the “scum” he encounters during the night; drug dealers, prostitutes, pimps etc.

The only source of light in his daily inner struggle is his attraction to Betsy, a beautiful woman who works for the political campaign of Charles Palantine. Travis’ inability to successfully interact with other people leads to his rejection by Betsy, who refuses to get to know him. Travis’ rage is enhanced by his acquaintance with a 17-year-old prostitute, who rushes into his cab in an attempt to escape from her violent pimp.

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From this brief encounter, Travis decides to save the underage prostitute, Iris, and reunite her with her family.  Taxi Driver offers a wild ride among the streets of New York and makes us viewers, witnesses of the dark side of the city. Guided by an ex-Veteran around the city, we get to see and perceive things by his own perspective, which reflects Travis’ inner suffocation by the political and moral corruption of the US during the 1970s.

Travis can be seen as a victim of the society, who dived into violence during Vietnam War and he sees violence as a means to ‘save’ people from themselves. He carries  Vietnam within himself and his good intentions are transformed into a bloodshed execution. Scorsese creates an ambiguous character with perplexed inner world and ideology in an attempt to visualize the disorientation of a whole nation.

 

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