The opening shot is Robert DeNiro’s character, Travis Bickle’s eyes in the review mirror intensely gazing at the city. It then transitions to the view outside of the taxi to the colorful, hectic streets of New York City. This exaggerates the importance of the taxi itself and the main character’s point of view from within it. Bickle is a veteran Marine who can’t sleep and decides to take the job of driving the long hours. He narrates the film as well using dialogue from the journal that he keeps.
Through the imagery and symbolism of the taxi itself, the musical backdrop, and the artistic editing, Martin Scorcese’s American psychological thriller captures the filth and futility and filth of a city through the eyes of the very thing that keeps it running, the taxi driver. Bickle complains about the filth of the city and the people who ride in the taxi, the majority of the beginning is allotted to this showing him cleaning out the back and dealing with unruly passengers. The view he has of the city from the taxi is negative and dark, making him hate the surroundings.
The vibrant colors, blurred slightly because of a mist and streetlights, represents the city’s stress of appearances and shallowness. Bickle sees a woman walk into a building, Betsy, who is wearing white. He refers to her as an “angel no one can touch”. The connection with the color white is to signify rare purity in a tainted world. Something that he seeks but cannot find. Travis Bickle finally talks to Betsy but when she refuses him after he subjects her to pornographic material, he claims she is “just like the rest”. This is the pivotal point where as a character, his demeanor and tone change.
He begins to speak more harshly and vaguely. He devotes himself to fitness and acquiring fire-arms. He becomes acquainted with a very young prostitute, when she tries to escaper her pimp. He genuinely wants her to get out of there, showing moral conscience and desire for righteousness, but it is contrasted with his desire to kill Palantino the man running for office. He fails in his attempt to kill him and runs. In what seems to be an unplanned move, he shoots “Sport” the pimp and the fingers off another man while also getting shot himself.
Iris, the twelve-year old prostitute, it is a very graphic, bloody scene where there is a lot of turmoil and screaming. It gets quiet then and he attempts to kill himself but he has no more bullets to do so. He wants to die but cannot, so he sits and waits for his fate as Iris continues screaming. He is found be the media to be a hero, the parents of Iris (who was not from a compound) were grateful. It poses many philosophical questions as to whether our actions or desires define who we are. He had planned on killing the senator, yet ended up in nearly happenstance, a hero rather than an assassin.
An outcome not even he was expecting. Yet, rather than a killer he is proclaimed a hero. Music is a very important role in the film. The lyrical jazz saxophone represents the seediness of the city combined with the rapid percussion noises to resemble the heightened pace and confusion of New York. There are many scenes with the camera pans a specific area. In the beginning, the cab itself is taken apart by segmenting it into different shots. Travis Bickle’s apartment is also scanned showing a bland yet somewhat disheveled room, one of the final iconic scenes is the scanning of the pimp house that Bickle assaulted.
Blood is all over the walls and floor. This adds to the dramatic element because during the film he often refers to the need for the city to be cleaned up. He rants even to Senator Charles Palantine about the filthiness of the city. Though it is not directly stated I believe that the underlying reason Bickle wanted to assassinate Palantine was because he blamed him for the smut of the city. So this scene displaying the mess he, himself made in killing the men was hypocritical and ironic in a way.