Martin Scorsese’s 1976 film Taxi Driver features several iconic scenes—moments that might occasionally distract viewers from movie’s overall brilliance. If one is looking for films wherein the camera is almost perfectly fused with the narration, Taxi Driver would have to be one of the selections. Film enthusiast Jacob T. Swinney, known for cineaste supercuts, recently released a video essay In the Eyes of Taxi Driver, in which he explores the relationship Scorsese creates between the camera and the film’s main character, Travis Bickle.
“[The film] may very well be one of the most subjective films of all time,” Swinney narrates. “In fact, the idea of subjectivity is established almost immediately. The opening credits feature extreme close-ups of Travis Bickle’s eyes cut together with a dreary New York City—we see the world the way Travis sees it.”
Swinney points out that while the city is a, “damp, blurry, highly saturated mess of images,” the extreme close-ups of Bickle’s eyes are stable. Bickle hasn’t even been properly introduced yet, but still the viewer knows that a story of alienation dominates the character’s consciousness.
Scorsese uses several other techniques to establish Bickle’s subjectivity via the camera, including a slow-motion shot during voiceover narration of an encounter with the character Betsy. And, as Swinney notes, there is also a famous scene in the film where Scorsese uses a camera move to break the close subjectivity with Bickle. These and many other scenes are broken down by Swinney in the video essay.