Watching Taxi Driver, I was immediately drawn in by the cinematography. Throughout the film, Michael Chapman’s focus on blurred, dizzying shots taken from Travis’s cab perfectly encapsulates the ambiguity of the film as a whole. The shots in which the camera traps us in Travis’s mind as he drives through streets of scum help us understand his ultimate loneliness and disgust with his surroundings. His eyes darting in and out of the rear view mirror as he drives through rain, fog, and smoke emphasize his inaiblity to control his inner turmoil. Though his position as a taxi driver provides stability in its simplicity and something to do in the long hours of the night, his perception of New York as seen in the cinematography disrupts his attempt to remove himself from his emotions. The cinematography, paired with De Niro’s strong performance, therefore allows the audience to relate to Travis in moments of helplessness in which he struggles to convey his emotions and experiences. I felt I knew exactly what Travis was going through when he attempts to sputter out the dangerous ideas in his head, proving how this film establishes clear character development for the audience. Furthermore, the way in which New York was portrayed from the eyes of Travis was so repulsive and dirty that I could not stop thinking about how much I never wanted to move to New York. His constant refrain regarding the “scum of the earth” living in New York and how it needed to be fixed up was mirrored in the jumbled shots of lights, prostitutes, and his interactions, and Scorcese achieves a clear sense of isolation throughout the film. De Niro’s portrayal of loneliness and repulsion was so clear, I found myself relating to him in moments in which he struggles to convey his exact emotions and aversion to all that surrounds him.
While I enjoyed this film throughout and was fully engaged by De Niro’s performance as Travis, it wasn’t until afterwards during a long discussion in my film noir class that I appreciated just how powerful this film is. The genius of this film lies in its ambiguity, as it leaves us thinking about its true meaning for hours afterward. Almost everyone in my class had a different take on the ending of this film, which influenced our interpretation of the film as a whole. As we listened to all sides and perceptions of Travis’ experience, we reconsidered different scenes throughout the film, resulting in an all encompassing, complex discussion of the film. We approached the film from all sides, and we could have talked for hours if our class hadn’t ended for the day. This made me rethink how I watched the film, and I looked forward to viewing it a second time to see how I would interpret it later on.