TAXI DRIVER – Travis asks Betsy out

The ‘Taxi Driver’ is the most existential film by Martin Scorsese, even before “After Hours”. Scorsese tells stories through his characters, the main plot is derived from a handful of perspectives, but taxi driver often clings on to Travis’ mind, no one else. In this scene where Travis asks Betsy out, it’s quietly visible. The selected scene involves the protagonist Travis going into Betsy’s office and insisting her to go on a date. What the protagonist says can be described in two ways; the first one, he is describing and reflecting himself onto her. On the other hand, he could be describing Betsy. The cinematographer used some pretty claustrophobic camera shots in this scene to zero in on protagonist’s world and get his perspective and camera work dishing out Travis vision in detail and reality.

The scene starts with a close-up of Travis sitting in his Taxi and looking at Betsy, cut to, Travis walks into the office where the camera tracks sideways of the street, from the suggestion of the cab, where a big space in the frame is empty, showing his isolation and loneliness, and towards the end of the tracking shot, camera zooms onto Travis. Both of the shots take us into the perspective of Travis even before the scene starts.

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Inside the office, a tracking outshot where Travis walks towards the frame, fast. These three shots close our thoughts around the character of Travis. The whole scene is told from the perspective of Travis, apart from a couple of lingering close-ups of Betsy’s reactions, most of the time we see Travis or his perception of the moment. After this, Scorsese cuts into the POV of Travis, where we see Betsy and her flirty colleague look into the approaching camera, thus to Travis. The shot tracks into a mid close up of  Betsy.

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When he reaches her table and tells that he needs to volunteer to her, and when the colleague hesitatingly leave, we see a couple of middle shots, with slight movements of tracking in and sideways, showing a really fast and vague vision of the office, which leaves the audience with less details, just like Travis.

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Visually this scene saturates our thinking process in and around Travis until Betsy is introduced. When Travis compliments her we see her close up, and thus the conversation continues, he uses the mid-close track into lock ourselves into the main characters, the only time the camera grabs a wider view to show her colleague spying on them and an aerial shot of her desk.

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When Travis tells her how he thinks of her as a lonely person and he wants to befriend her, the suggestion shots starts to track out slowly, and when she accepts his invitation, we are left out with somewhat of a third person perspective and these characters isolated from their surroundings and connected to each other.

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References:

  1. Scorsese, M., (2017). Taxi Driver (1976). [online] IMDb. Available at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075314/ [Accessed 9 May 2017].

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