The framing of the shot “imposes a certain vantage point into the material within the image” and is important because it defines the image for us; what is in the shot and what is not is important7. Framing consists of the size or shape of the frame, angle, level or height of the shot, and mobile shots or framing, and the use of space on the screen. A great example of framing is in the beginning of the movie when Travis goes to the porno movie theatre.
While he is ending his conversation with the girl at the counter he walks through the shot while it zooms in the on the projector eye piece to reveals the porno that is showing in that theatre. This is a great transition technique to tie one scene to another. It also illustrates how depraved Travis’s character is and that he really has no right to judge the lives of other people. Many times throughout this movie the Taxi is framed by doorways that lead to his cab. For example, during the robbery, or when he is trying to reconcile with Betsy on the phone his car is framed by the door almost as his only escape.
Many shots in this film are also framed by the taxi cab windows. For example one rally for Senator Palentine is framed by the window. We can only see what Travis is able to see. Another way in which this movie frames its shots is through the use of the rear view mirror. This is used almost every time someone gets into the taxi. For example at the end of the film Betsy gets into his taxi and we see the conversation between them occur mostly with the rear view mirror. We are able to see what Travis is seeing and his point of view but we also get the opposite, what Betsy is seeing in Travis. Another element is angled or height shots which increases as we move through the movie. Angled shots occur more frequently during the scenes with the Pimp, when he is attempting to save Iris the prostitute.
This is to illustrate his distorted perception as well as to provide a more visually entertaining film. For example there are a number of low angled or hero shots used during the scenes with Iris because Travis perceives himself to her saviour. There are many low angled shots as Travis and Iris walk up the stairs of the hotel where he tells her that he will help her leave her life and go back home. There is also a number to low angled shots of the building because he believes that he needs to rid the city of all the dirtiness that is in the building. Other unconventional angles that are used are the overhead (high angle framing) shot. This is used during bother the robbery scene as well as the shooting rampage; both overhead shots highlight what has just occurred in the room.
There are bodies on the floor and there is destruction. This shot provides an overview of what has occurred and it is God like because it feels like the audience judging the scene and the people in it. There are also a number of mobile shots that add a great deal to the scenes themselves and allow the audience to get involved in judging the scene. An example of this is the dolly through store which is being robber.
We follow Travis to the back of the store with a dolly moving through the racks and there is also one when the robber begins to rob the store which moves much slower then the first shot. It allows the audience to see how calmly Travis reacts to the robbery situation as well as the killing of a black man and how is able to get himself into a position to defend himself. Another example of a mobile shot is when we first see his apartment, there is a pan following the room around as Travis talks about how dirty and disorganized the city is.
This shot adds to the theme of Travis’s hypocrisy or self righteousness. His house is completely dirty with pots and dirty dishes everywhere. The final element of framing is the use of on and off screen space is important in this film because it illustrates Travis’ state of mind but also what is really important to him. This is generally different then what he says is important to him; he is “a walking contradiction”.
Most of the time in Taxi Drive Travis is off to the side of shots to show what is in the background. The background of this movie plays a vital role in how Travis views himself with respect to the rest of the city. For example his apartment is a metaphor for Travis’ life. Much of what goes on in his everyday life ends up on his wall, surrounding him and his obsessions. There are posters of Senator Palentine all over his apartment reminding him of Betsy and everywhere he goes she is on his mind because the posters are placed throughout the movie.
The Final aspect of cinematography is the duration of the shot. The duration of the shot is the amount of time that is spent on a scene. For example, a long take slows the pace of the movie and can make the scene more intense. Combining many of these features allows for a visually appealing shot. In Taxi driver there are a number of great duration shots that add to the theme of the movie. An example of this is during the killing spree when the shots are shot at a fast pace. The accelerated pace allows it to conform to the conventions of a war film. The choppy short takes also illustrates what is happening to Travis; his madness has come to peak.
Another example of duration is when Travis is in the coffee house with a number of his co-workers and there is a slow pan to a group of black men that are dressed as pimps. This shot illustrates Travis’s fear of not only black people but also the scum. Duration shots are very useful when a director is trying to illustrate the characters state of mind. There are many examples of this throughout his movie such as when Travis visits the shooting range near the end of the movie. Only his head and upper torso are shown in the box that he is firing from. The rapid succession of shots allows the audience to know that Travis is going to use his weapons to rid the city of the scum around him.
In conclusion, much of what is placed in the shots and how they are shot provide a great deal of information to the audience about a characters state on mind as well as the world around them. The duration of the shot can change the mood or theme of any character. The framing of a shot can provide valuable background information that is visually appealing. In this movie there is a progression on his wall of his mementoes.
Even in the end of the movie he is proud of all the he did and posted the articles about himself on the walls. This information was important in understanding what he was going to do and why. The types of shots chosen in Taxi Driver tell you a great deal about how important the character is or how plain their personality is as well as Travis’ feelings toward them. It also tells you what is important about the characters life.