“Loneliness has followed me my whole life, everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There’s no escape. I’m God’s lonely man.”
Travis Bickle is truly one of the most complex characters in Hollywood cinema history. Here is a man who would not take it any more, and would use his anger towards the perceived trash of society for a final act of righteousness… or not, depending on your point of view.
For all the controversy Taxi Driver’s violent final act caused upon its release, the film is most intriguing as a psychological study of what loneliness and a feeling of ‘not belonging’ can do to an average man. Here, Robert De Niro plays the lead character in a role that remains among his best (though another of his famous partnerships with Scorsese, 1980’s Raging Bull, probably just snatches that honour).
It was offensive for sure, but I believe appropriately so. If one felt terribly offended by the vulgar content of Travis’ private monologues, which gave the audience a valuable insight into his increasingly vulnerable psyche, I daresay it was only because they took it to be directed towards them in some way. Perhaps Travis was intending to talk to you directly. Or maybe you simply disagree with his outlook and methods.
But if Taxi Driver conveys one thing better than most other films, it is the nature of subjectivity. Travis’ thoughts and feelings are exactly that; his own. What the movie does so well is insightfully let you know how, and why Travis develops those thoughts and feelings based on his surroundings. In the end, one could possibly feel slightly sorry for him, or dislike him – though you will at least understand him.