I am going to take four scene from the taxi driver and show how the mise-en-scene, cinematography, and editing support Travis Bickle¡¯s state of mind and personality.
First I want to state what Travis¡¯s state of mind and personality is throughout most of the film. Travis is isolated from the rest of the world. He feels like he does not fit in with the rest of society. He is looking for a direction, a cause, a reason for his existence and he takes the Taxi job as a way to cope with some of that frustration.
The first scene I want to analyze is the one of Travis first applying to become a taxi driver. To help reinforce Travis¡¯s isolation from the rest of the world, Travis and the interviewer are in separate framing throughout most of the scene. His answers come in either short or stuttered responses. We find out from the interview that Travis had been in the Marines. Travis is still wearing his old marines jacket. We get the impression that the last sense of belonging Travis felt was when he was in the marines. The framing is tight using only medium and close up shots of Travis and the interviewer, keeping Travis away from the rest of the world. There is only the diegetic sound of the taxi garage, no music is playing. When Travis is exiting the garage the camera leaves him and does a panning shot of the garage almost like he is so isolated that the camera itself can become detached from him.
When Travis exit¡¯s the garage the framing becomes much looser. Extreme long shots are used making Travis seem even more isolated from the few people on the street. We then come to Travis¡¯s apartment. While Travis¡¯s voice over is heard speaking about the rain coming and washing away all the filth and scum on the streets we are juxtaposed by the scene of his apartment. His apartment is a visual contradiction to what Travis is saying. There is trash every wear. Clothes are thrown and hung anywhere in no particular order or method. There is a stack of magazines on his bed. All the clutter in his apartment gives us a window into Travis¡¯s state of mind.
There is now a cut to Travis in his taxi. It is night time and we have none diegetic soundtrack playing. Interestingly for the most part the soundtrack only plays when Travis is alone or in the taxi. This again reinforces the sense of isolationism that Travis is feeling. Travis¡¯s voice over is still playing as there is a tracking shot from the taxi as it drives along the looking at the side walk. All the people Travis is speaking about are walking on the sidewalk. After Travis speaks about the ¡°lowlife that walk the street¡± with obvious contempt he say¡¯s that it doesn¡¯t make a difference to him. Travis stops to pickup a man and a prostitute. All the shots are medium shots from the front seat looking in to the back. This again keeps Travis in Isolation from the people he drives. Like he is looking into a window and seeing other people¡¯s lives. He has no conversation with the people he drives. He only watches them as he takes them to their location. At one point he goes through street that has water raining down on it from an open fire hydrant. The water completely obscures his vision from the front window and he turns on his windshield wipers to wash it away. This again is reinforcing his state of mind being at odds with everything and wanting to wash it away.
The next scene I want to analyze is that of Wizard¡¯s court. Where Travis goes in to have a cup of coffee with Wizard, Doughboy, and Charley T. The scene opens with the camera panning to fallow Travis from inside the cafeteria while he walks in. The film switches to a medium straight on angle shot as Travis sits down on the extreme right of the frame. This is showing how far away he is from the rest of the taxi drivers and the world. As Wizard and Doughboy have their conversation Travis is kept in separate framing or he is kept in the back far right of...