By Marcos Henrique Silva (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Universidade Federal de Uberlândia (Uberlandia – Brazil)
Taxi Driver, Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece is a chronicle of decay and loneliness set in a doomed metropolis. It depicts the nightlife in New York City in the 97 ’s; a period when this city was in a lousy condition and looked like an urban site destroyed by an ongoing war, the signs of which could be seen all around.
Dilapidated buildings, dirty streets, as well the shaggy population that haunted these obscure places, all contributed to create a setting that looked more dangerous than a battlefield. When the night fell, hookers, pimps, drug dealers and perverts of any sort, occupied the streets, the kinds of people who are usually classified under the same term: scum.
In this forlorn scenery, Scorsese sets the story of Travis Bickle, a lonely taxi driver, whose sleeplessness causes him to seek a night shift job as a cabby. Driving the night wanderers to the most distant and violent neighborhoods, Travis makes contact with several urban tribes and comes to know their ghettos, but in all his comings and goings he doesn’t establish any connections with these people, acting rather like a zombie driver, unable to feel love or hatred, only contempt.
Travis is young, slim and somewhat handsome, but his fragile appearance makes him look unfit for the job he chose. Actually, there is something in his body and face that reveals his belonging to the underclasses; certain signs of undernourishment and physical weakness, which were very common among the young guys that lived alone in the 97 ’s. To sum it up, Travis is just one of the species, a Mr. nobody, but he distinguishes himself from the crowd by his dissent; his utterly contempt for the people he lives with and for the filthy environment of the city. If it were not for this, he would be just an unknown man, probably unable to perform the mission of tragic redemption bestowed upon him by the circumstances.
Being ordinary as any of the underdogs that swarm to the big cities every year,
Travis is the right person to embody the anti-hero of modern times: he is vulnerable,
depressed, lonely and affected by crime and poverty on a daily basis; he feels the tension of living in a hostile place; the tension of having no choice. In my point of view, the anti-hero can only spring out of the scum, but, at the same time, he has to be a dysphoric element within the community of losers, otherwise he would not rebel against the circumstances and reveal the inherent tragedy of that life.
Travis seems to fulfill both conditions and, as a tragic hero, he follows the crooked pathway taken by other great figures of literature, from Raskolnikov to Heathcliff, embarking on a progressive journey along which his primary self would be violated, leading him to a final experience of redemption or annihilation. As for Travis’ destiny, one is quite sure that he is going to die at the end of the movie, as there seems to be no salvation for a lonely man confronting the dangerous scum. There is little or none possibility for him to survive in that environment, where fear seemed to be the only weapon and nonchalance, indifference, the only way to stay alive.
Indeed, Travis sound so sad and tired in his first few speeches that one almost feels sorry for him, the poor young fellow; so young and already doomed to die amid the people he despised. Nevertheless, courage is one of Travis’ most distinct traits and also the one that put him into the highest risk, since there is no protection for the undaunted ones in a country where survival depends on the ability to disguise, to hide behind a neutral persona; not involved with anyone. It is not coincidental that the worst scoundrel of the neighborhood, the most despised by Travis, is a pimp; a man that stands in a porch and explores the young whores, but never admits openly that he has something to do