Literature and Film
In literature and film, the theory of art is different. Each of the texts has its advantages, making Taxi Driver a blank slate and a projection of the meaning of the audience’s interpretation. In addition to being a permanent classic, the film plays a role of universalism, quirky yet whimsical. Despite the artful treatment, the surprising subject matter makes people always identify Bickle’s character studies as outsiders.
However, in literature and film, proper psychopathy is always difficult for people to understand. Martin Scorsese neither examines nor assesses his case studies in open detail. While people are taken aback after seeing Travis as an individual who takes a woman to a porn theater on a first date, he slowly takes on the role of a political assassin as well. He also shows his kindness in his desire to save a preteen hiker.
Therefore, Bickle’s character becomes as much an enigma as an overly open idea. By becoming a reference so that the cinema decides to replay the film, the audience can remember memorable scenes in the film. Simply put, the film is iconic because of its “cliché” and the trope of “literally me.” It is so significant that the lasting power of the film cannot be brushed off.
Counterculture and Travis Bickle
Travis Bickle, a taxi driver in New York City, has been called a counterculture to the failed releases of the 1960s. The culture represents the soul of a troubled man. While others see the film as a warning to society at large, Bickle’s personification doesn’t deter psychopaths from being late. On the other hand, Bickle is the personification of revenge. He is against an explicit system that both the apparatus and the upper classes create.
From psychological theories and responses to castration anxiety, Bickle’s real hatred doesn’t just serve as a false product of “racism” at the time. Masculinity becomes Bickle’s desire in reclaiming urbanism for the sake of white men, once again becoming a loafer who often roams the city, which drives him insane. When it comes to such studies, people will never forget Paul Schrader. At the time, he had reached a low point where he drank heavily and lived in his car in loneliness.
His relationship with his family had collapsed until he read media coverage of the shooting of presidential candidate Wallace in 1972. It left him even more paralyzed from the waist down, discovering how an individual in a state of extreme loneliness can change a person.
Schrader finished the script in less than two weeks, channeling his mental state, anger, and frustration into Bickle’s figure. Borrowing from other films such as The Searchers, it provides him with a loose structure in which Bickle becomes an embodiment of Ethan’s character in a contemporary setting. Therefore, noir gives Schrader further insight into worldview cynicism, America’s identity crisis, and postwar shock.
Like an uncertain interpretation, the film opens its narrative with fog and sewer steam rising from below as a taxi arrives. On the first shot, the terrifying title sequence gave Bickle away as if he had emerged from nothing. He enters the cab delivery office and looks for work in the fog while the fog follows him from behind. At age 26 and serving in the Vietnam War until his honorary discharge in 1973, his education was minimal as well.
Standing far from the interviewer, the sender is made to feel strange. He is willing to drive a taxi in a bad environment. From Bickle’s perspective, the entire audience watched Travis closely as he stared at the dispatcher. He becomes an unreliable narrator. He sinks deep into a syndrome of paranoia as if he had never slept peacefully.
Like the “literally me” character, Bickle always questions whether he is a war veteran. Audiences may be able to confirm Bickle’s existence or theorize that the film is a sequel to The Deer Hunter. It makes him scary but interesting because the audience learns little about how the system dissolves him. His generic military mantle, an extreme fetish for guns, and his distinctive personality traits of narcissistic personality disorder make his relationships with other people have strange results.
In essence, he is not at all able to make small talk with fellow taxi drivers. Others can call him a “killer” while laughing. However, Bickle was an individual on tiptoe, always aware that he was on the line. Everything in the film, from the wrong circumstances to people, can push him over the edge. As the narrative he reads begins to resonate, he admits how throughout his life, what he needed was a sense of a place to go.
It was a chilling affirmation of Bickle’s personality that he would explode at any moment. In one case, Betsy and Tom (the two campaign hands that Charles Palantine, the presidential candidate, hired) talk to each other in purposeful, shallow babble. At one point, when Bickle watched Betsy, believing that she was the “goddess” sitting high above the system, at one point, she caught him looking.
The Desire of Guns
It sends Bickle speeding in his taxi, using strange energy to convince her to meet her for the sake of having a coffee and pie. After making a mistake on the first date, Bickle has a desire or intention without understanding, following through on his choice of not having basic social understanding. In such a case, it makes him interested in guns, asserting that Bickle’s violence acts as a response to his lust.
Such an idea, people can articulate when seeing the insane character in Bickle’s mind. In another famous scene, a passenger, whom Scorsese plays, discovers his wife is having an affair with a black man. Constantly talking about what he could do with a .44 Magnum on his wife’s head, the passenger repeated to Bickle that he should see for himself. After the conversation, he went to buy his own .44 Magnum.
It becomes clear when the passenger plays the concentrated version of Bickle, harboring a deep prejudice when he rests with his fellow drivers. In the sequence, the camera shadows the black people, confirming Bickle’s racism, which still exists in the camera. Holding a catatonic gaze of suspicion, Scorsese tries to avoid being judged as a racist film.
Bickle’s Distortion of Madness
Scorsese made concessions by choosing white actors as pimps. His efforts in developing the sequence as a whole also came through Bickle’s eyes, which conveyed that the filmmakers themselves were not racist. When talking about guns, the idea of buying a gun came to Bickle’s mind when a taxi driver asked him if he carried a gun. After the taxi driver triggers Bickle, he buys a stack of guns from a shady dealer.
The sequence also features iconic scenes in film history. While Schrader simply wrote Bicke talking to himself in the mirror, De Niro improvised the script in the following sequence, borrowing Scorsese’s shooting routine with heavy symbolism. It evokes how Bickle is torn between his image and his true self, which has lost touch. In the following scene, the audience realizes that Bickle’s willingness to sing to a person supports his mirror posture.
To avoid distortion, the edits embed the scene where Bickle shows evidence that his existence is not mere madness. However, he exists around other people, so he can be almost normal. When he told the taxi driver that he had a bad idea in his head, the taxi driver felt something strange inside Bickle.
Loneliness and Solitude
In a city like New York, Bickle fuels his loneliness and impulse to never feel anything but solitude. However, he is more than just a psychopathic character. There is a trope that part of his character wants to do good. Taxi Driver reiterates when Bickle meets and becomes obsessed with Iris. She is an underage prostitute that Bickle sees walking down the street. At night, she tries to get into Bickle’s taxi to escape, telling him to drive fast.
However, Bickle froze, and quickly Sport (pimp Iris) appeared, grabbed Iris, and placed a $20 bill on the front passenger seat of the taxi to forget the incident. He refuses to touch the bill because it has been polluted by “city trash.” It makes his mission of rescuing Iris into Bickle’s quest regardless, for the sake of selfishness as well. He did it to portray himself as a hero, a rescue attempt he forced on Iris.
Despite people using her, Iris was slightly satisfied with her “relationship” with Sport, even dismissing the attempted escape as a bad reaction. When she meets Bickle, she realizes that Bickle wants to help her. Although grateful, she is also aware that she never asked to be saved.
Putting the Garbage into the Toilet
Bickle realizes that Sport is a predator who has sacrificed Iris, brainwashing her because no one else will, making Bickle have to save her. It confirms Bickle’s hatred of the city because of the likes of Sport. However, his hatred is not limited to one point in Sport’s character. Palantine becomes another character who triggers the explosion in his head. In the scene, Palantine and his two aides enter Bickle’s taxi.
He began to engage in small talk about being a staunch supporter of politicians. However, it makes Bickle lose himself in his rant about cleaning while blabbering that one should clean up the city by throwing the “garbage” into the “toilet.” The passengers realized the driver was unwell, despite remaining polite. When Palantine shook Bickle’s hand, Bickle began to smile a fake grin. The scene becomes a transparent fake in front of Bickle’s character.
A montage of incidents serves as a compilation of when Bickle sees Iris with John, sees Palantine on television, and sees a man exploding in an uncontrollable rage on the street. He also began shaving his hair into a mohawk, insisting members of the Special Forces in Vietnam be “fashion killers.”
The Purification of Violence
When Bickle arrives at the rally fully armed and ready to release his tension that has escalated to a single shot, the Secret Service finds him and chases him into the crowd. Because he escaped and failed, he tried to save Iris regardless. He didn’t know whether Iris wanted to be saved or not. In the climax, Scorsese categorizes it as blood purification. Bickle cleansed himself by shedding the blood of the city’s scum to achieve a glorious victory for himself.
In a very unusual graphic display of violence at the time, he shoots down Sport and people using Iris. In a bloody battle, he manages to save Iris. However, he was also shot after running out of ammo. In another iconic scene, Bickle puts his gun to his head while pulling the trigger multiple times. The hammer clicked empty, and the gun fiddled with his hand and put it back on his head when the police arrived.
It made a gunshot sound from deep in his throat, clearing Bickle’s mind to expel his extremists. Making his mind “calm” through the purification of violence, Bickle sees himself as religiously justified. He sees himself as a person who cleans the streets of New York.
The Urgency of Taxi Driver
In other cases, everything is happening in his head, and either he just gets caught up in his hatred or dies of his full hatred. Inspired by John Hinckley Jr. after the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan, Taxi Driver enforces an infectious relationship with its audience. The quality of the film that is difficult for people to understand is entrenched in the audience, creating the need to revisit the film over and over again.
Audiences can discover all the new details that went unnoticed before. What the audience knows about what happens in the film is very broad. However, what the audience doesn’t know is even greater. While Schrader and Scorsese couldn’t agree on what the film was, many literary and film scholars constantly re-evaluated it, only to come to different conclusions. When re-watching, it even recounts the narrative in relative depth.
There are many things about Scorsese’s image that remain a mystery. People know the film in popular culture, so many people keep coming back to the film in hopes of knowing it. But what’s even more important is figuring out what it means. With enduring urgency, it became the most important film in the history of both film and art as a whole.