Taxi Driver – Breakdown

The scene is stuck in my head! I have seen this scene over and over again, over the last few weeks. We have analysed it in class, and I figured it would be so much easier now to analyse it on my blog. But there are just so many facets to one 3 minute scene.

The Characters

There are two main and one supporting character in this scene. Travis (Robert De Niro) and Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) meet for the first time in this scene, but Travis makes it clear that he has observed her over some time. Warning Betsy! But the scene is used to introduce the characters not only to each other but to the audience as well. The characters both are dressed in reds in the otherwise dull coloured scene. The only other colour that stands out is the yellow of his taxi, another important introduction prop.

The third character, Betsy’s aquaintance has been used to give a comical touch to the scene. He is often scene shepharding along in the background trying to hear the conversation. He is focused on in these scenes as Betsy is put out of focus. The focus never leaves Travis which makes it obvious that he is the protagonist.

I think the reason Travis is attracted to her is because there is a pull to her sadness which maybe the same in him.

Camera

The camera as you will notice is in constant movement, never lasting in one position even for seconds. The scene starts on a closeup shot of Travis as we see him see something obviously behind the camera. Immediately the shot changes to behind the car, on the passenger side. I think a Dolly was used to move sideways, around to the front of the car, but Travis’s movement are followed using zoom.

The cameraman uses the zoom technique all throughout the film to build interest and focus. As Travis enters, the dialogue between him and Betsy are shot using about three different positions, I think. The shots are all from Betsy’s eye level position, even the ones which are over-the-shoulder behind Travis. The shot generally starts at mid shot position and zooms in for a close position, as the characters speak.

When Travis initially walks up to Betsy’s desk, I think the camera is handheld as it is a little shaky, like someone is walking with it. The headroom is generally very small, if there and remains constant as the camera zooms in and out. I think the Rule of thirds was in constant play. The characters are never bang centre of any shot.

Sound

As the scene starts, sound of traffic is heard in the background. I think all the foley sound was added on later, as there doesn’t seem to be as much traffic on the road. The click of the door closing also sounds almost too sharp. The murmur in the office may have also been added later and their converstion was probably recorded using a directional mike.

A tune is heard at the end of the scene. It is the tune that really defines what the character may be feeling as his face and expressions are not really seen, it being a side shot. The tune is kind of goofy, something you may here in a cartoon show when the boy lands the hot date. In this shot, I am pretty sure it is the music which makes us smile.

Lighting

I think the key light throughout the scene is essentially the sunshine. A back light may have been used, as sometimes a shine is seen near Betsy’s right eyebrow.

Fun Fact

At one point when Travis is telling Betsy “I’m there to protect you!”, he looks directly at the camera. I am sure that was not part of the plan!

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