Analysis Of The Mirror Scene From Taxi Driver By Martin Scorsese

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The legendary film-critic Pauline Kael (1976) called “Taxi Driver” as one of the few truly modern horror films. There are many things proving it: its cold anxiety, atrocious violence, dark colors and an insane taxi driver dreaming about the purge of dirty streets of sinful New York. There is one scene demonstrating true but wrong feelings of De Niro’s character suffering from insomnia, sociopathy, depression and inferiority complex. In the mirror scene Martin Scorsese, a film director, reflects Travis’ morbid unhealthiness by using some really interesting film techniques.

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After failed hunting a governor of New York, Travis is shown right in front of his mirror speaking and threatening with gun to an imaginary man. By watching this scene, we can observe his personality disorder, desperation and loneliness hiding deeply in his heart. The poor taxi driver was rejected by his crush and accuse an unfamiliar politician for nothing. So we can say that De Niro’s character lives and insulates himself in his own invented space. In his world Travis blames prostitutes, politicians, addicted people, shoplifters – everybody, except himself. He even finds nothing wrong with showing pornography to a hardly familiar lady. However, it is worth to note that he talks to a mirror, to selfsame Travis. The withdrawn taxi driver imagines and curses a governor, but at the same time he is looking and aggressively insults himself and the iconic phrase “You talking me?” peppers this suppose.

The camera movements utterly violate the 180-degree rule, so we are able to see Travis’ room completely. He is represented from the left and the right side and it may confuse an audience. There are shots from the top when he was lying on the bed, and shots of Travis’ reflection (like POV cutting) letting us see his facial expressions while he was talking to it. But the most interesting thing is temporal discontinuity. The scene where he was introducing himself is doubled and seems like a mistake of editors. However, according to his correction of own words and a notebook shown after that, it shows that he was writing and visualizing it in his mind. Also there is a jump-cut jumping from the scene of reposing Travis to the scene where he stands. Also, often the movie violates the rule of thirds by putting De Niro’s face on the left side of frame. All these confusing shots prove that the character has serious psychological problems and it helps watchers to perceive it by these techniques.

There is no background music, only rare bizarre sounds making the whole situation more strange and uncomfortable. Also, we can hear more non-diegetic sound: his thoughts. It was also being interrupted and repeated by jump-cuts.

He wears military green jacket in this scene, reminding himself his military years. May be these years in army have spoiled his mind and filled it up with blood, screams and sensation of insecurity. In addition, we can see his addition and crazy desire to kill the governor Palantine by his posters pinned on his wall.

In conclusion, the scene complements the movie’s story and helps to comprehend many things. Moreover, it truly represents Travis’ identity. The Hollywood Reporter placed the quote “You talking to me?” at eighth place of Hollywood’s 100 favorite movie quotes. So it is impossible to deny that even this scene has its own legacy. 

10 Jun 2021

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