New York City that is depicted in Taxi Driver seems to be too real to be true. It is a place where violence runs rampant, drugs are cheap, and sex is easy. This world may be all too familiar to many that live in major metropolitan areas. But, in the film there is something interesting, and vibrant about the streets that Travis Bickle drives alone, despite the amount of danger and turmoil that overshadows everything in the nights of the city.
In the film “Taxi Driver” director Martin Scorsese and writer Paul Schrader find and express a trial that many people face, the search for belonging and acceptance. The character of Travis Bickle roams the nights in his taxi cab, and witnesses all of this “open sewer”, loathing the people who live within it’s realm. Travis is a complex character in his hate for the world in which he works. The streets on which he works are the same streets that he makes his living, and pays his rent, buys his booze, and eventually buys his guns.
He is a victim of the world that he hates, because it is the only world he knows. This is viewed best in the scene where Travis takes Betsy to the “movies”. When Travis was in the cafe with Betsy earlier in the film, it would be hard to say that there was really anything to odd about it. But later on in the film, on Travis and Betsy’s second date, things become clear that Travis has a different understanding of what is socially acceptable. Travis can’t seem to understand why Betsy doesn’t want to go see the pornographic movie that he has taken her to.
He thinks that this is a place where couples go, and seems to think that it’s a decent place to go on a date. There is something alluring about Travis’s naivete, something comical, and maybe a little ironic. Travis isn’t naive to the world of drugs, sex, and smut; Travis is naive to the world of decency, where the majority of society attempts to dwell. As Travis’s taxi drives down the road, the viewer gets the chance to view the streets through the eyes of Travis. You see things through the windshield and rearview mirrors, all luminescent in the neon glow of the night.
The streets are filled with different sorts; prostitutes on the street corners, pimps in the cafes, and homeless people wandering through the mess aimlessly. As film critic Leonard Quart put’s it “The city seen through Travis’ windshield and rear view mirror is an iridescent cascade of neon and street lights, and the chaotic life on the streetsthe shadows and shapes that inhabit themare just as exhilarating as they are threatening. ” This is where Travis must live, and he hates it.
Travis thinks he wants to live a normal life, and get out of the hell he lives in, but not quite sure how to go about getting out of this hell. Travis is also moderately insane but, nevertheless he devises a plan to save the young prostitute, Iris, and himself from his taxi cab prison. The beauty of this film climaxes when Travis goes to free Iris from the evil clutches of her pimp, Sport.
When Travis approaches Sport, a second time, a question arises, “Why is Travis paying this grotesque man another visit? ut, then all is made clear when Travis draws his pistol and attempts to liberate Iris from her prison. The entire scene gives a strange feeling of redemption. Travis has redeemed himself from the world that he lived in by ridding it of this evil and freeing something that has potential to become something very beautiful. This redeeming feeling is reinforced when Scorsese’s extreme overhead angle is shot, frozen, and begins to retrace the path of blood and bodies that Travis has defeated to save his damsel in distress, his Rapunzel, Iris.
The film ends with Travis, a hero for the day, returning to his job as a cabbie. One can’t help but wonder is this outcome what really happened, or is it what Travis thought would’ve happened. Travis receiving letters from the grateful parents of Iris for returning her home, his cabbie buddies sitting around concocting stories of his triumph, and his beloved Betsy treating him as a decent human being. These could very well be another illusion Travis has created to somewhat justify his “flushing the whole mess down the toilet” in his disturbed mind.
Author Lester Keyser writes that, “Travis’s schizophrenic vision of life mirrors Scorsese’s adolescent difficulties with the black-and-white sexual morality his Irish Catholic teachers hammered home to their Italian charges. ” This suggests that Travis’s feelings are the somewhat distorted feelings and views of his co-creator, Martin Scorsese. Travis’s character also reflects some of it’s writer’s, Paul Schrader’s, views, and feelings. In an interview with Paul Schrader, Michael Bliss writes, “Brought up Calvinist, Schrader early on cleaved the work of God.
At the same time, though, his restless intelligence led him down secular paths, toward film appreciation and aesthetics, two realms that clashed with the unquestioning acceptance of doctrine toward which he had been encouraged. ” Struggling between the gritty night world of a cabbie, and the socially acceptable world of Betsy, his infatuation, Travis is much of the same. Aside the Director, and screenwriter, many people can relate to Travis’s struggle between worlds, and the uncertainty of how to attain status in the better of the two.
This film depicts the striving that we take to find morals. This quest isn’t always successful though. This is viewed in “Taxi Driver” as Travis’s assassination attempt on a presidential candidate, which fails. Film critic Amy Taubin explains this best when she writes, “. the assassination failed is only fitting, since Taxi Driver is a film steeped in failurethe US failure in Vietnam, the failure of the 1960’s counterculture andthe failure of masculinity as a set of behavioral codes on which to mold a life.
The film “Taxi Driver” is a true undertaking of the human longing to fit in, and be adequate. It depicts all aspects of this, by showing the triumph of Travis’s heroic emancipation of Iris, and the failure of the assassination of the presidential candidate Palentine. “Taxi Driver” shows all of this in a least expected but very beautiful way, it is a timeless ballad to all unsure, astray, and wandering personalities.