Someday A Real Rain Will Come

Someday A Real Rain Will Come

Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Park Circus 

Release date: May 13th 2011
Certificate (UK): 18
Running time: 109 minutes

Year of production: 1976

Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: Paul Schrader
Composer: Bernard Herrmann

Cast: Robert De Niro, Cybill Shepherd, Harvey Keitel, Jodie Foster, Peter Boyle, Albert Brooks, Leonard Harris, Joe Spinell, Martin Scorsese

Life in a big city can destroy the soul of anyone who dares to wander into it. Small town guys who come looking for a better life, a good job and to work their up, hoping to make a name for themselves, can easily get sucked into an obscurity far worse than the one they’re hoping to escape.

Despair and angst boils beneath the surface in the face of indifference, rejection and the utter loneliness city life can expose them to. This is perhaps best illustrated in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976), a film which has endured 35 years and still remains relevant today, perhaps even more so than ever.

Taxi Driver

Its story leads up to the total breakdown of Vietnam veteran Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro). Unable to sleep, he takes a job as a night-time taxi driver. Driving through the labyrinthine streets of New York he sees the filth and scum that’s plunging the country into a darkness much like the one he’s been falling into for some time now. He hopes that “someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.”

When he’s not working, Travis visits porn cinemas to pass his time. Back in his squalid apartment he writes in his diary about how he feels and the medication he’s taking. He sends postcards back home to his parents deceiving them with stories about working with the government and why he can’t give them his address.

Taxi Driver

A young woman, Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), who works as a campaign volunteer for New York Senator Charles Palantine (Leonard Harris), catches his attention. Smitten by her and believing that she’s different from everyone else in the city, he asks her out. His attempts to impress her fail miserably.

As a result, she rejects him but it’s also his chance encounter with an underage prostitute, Iris (Jodie Foster), and his desire to free her from the dirty underworld that acts as the catalyst for his next series of actions, paving the way for a blood soaked climax.

Taxi Driver

Travis arms himself with guns and knives and plans to clean up the city himself. After the assassination of Senator Palantine fails, he then tries to liberate Iris from the clutches of her pimp, “Sport” (Harvey Keitel).

Taxi Driver exudes all of that alienation and rebelliousness that began with Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without A Cause (1955) but continues it here on a truly adult level as Travis becomes consumed with his misguided humanism/misanthropy.

It leaves us with the idea that if there’s anything he loathes more, it’s himself. He seems to be a man suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Perhaps the war was too much for him, maybe he was already damaged goods by the time he reached New York, whatever the case might be, it’s definitely his time living there that’s tipped him over the edge.

Taxi Driver

Others have pointed out the film’s ambiguous ending, alluding it to a dying dream sequence, and equating Travis with an avenging angel. This may be, but I also feel we shouldn’t ignore the film’s obvious existentialist themes either. They are as present here as they are in Sartre’s Nausea (1938) and Kafka’s Metamorphosis (1915).

Like Antoine Roquentin and Gregor Samsa, Travis is a man facing an existential crisis in the truest sense. He encounters his freedom and sees the absurdity in the life around him, he feels the loneliness, despair and abandonment, but he also recognises it in others too; Betsy and Iris, and he responds to it in the only way he knows; with violence. He makes his own rules as he goes along and his own choices, he knows his existence precedes his essence. Sartre writes:

Taxi Driver

“What do we mean by saying existence precedes essence? We mean that man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world – and defines himself afterwards. If man as the existentialist sees he is not definable, it is because to begin with he is nothing. He will not be anything until later, and then he will be what he makes of himself. Thus, there is no human nature, because there is no God to have conception of it. Man simply is.”

Taxi Driver is perhaps not the best way to sell existentialism, but then Scorsese and Schrader are hardly existentialists, nevertheless the film has something very important to say about it in relation to the hypocrisy of morality and other Catholic imposed ideas in western society. On its 35th anniversary, these sentiments feel more true now than ever before.

Sartre, J.P. (1948) Existentialism & Humanism, Methuen & Co Ltd

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