"Postmodern Antihero: Capitalism and Heroism in Taxi Driver" Bright Lights Film Journal 47 (2005).
The author of this article compares Taxi Driver to a number of other film genres, as it combines elements of noir, the Western, horror, and urban melodrama. Iannucci believes Travis’s lack of a distinct identity compels him to compose an exoteric identity which is externally influenced by personalities such as the “gunslinger” and the Indian. In reality, what Travis Bickle does is create a postmodern antiheroic identity that is nostalgic and pop culture oriented. The author argues that Travis employs a Western-style philosophical approach to life by solving a complex contemporary problem with an individual solution. The film’s climactic ending shows how absurd the Western idealistic depiction of heroism is because the media in the film not only ignores Travis’s actions but also glorifies a psychopathic killer as a noble citizen. According to Iannucci, Travis’s search for vengeance under the guise of violence makes him an antihero because it is more insane than courageous. In addition, Scorsese’s camerawork is discussed as he implies characters’ ambiguities and complexities with the use of editing and odd framing angles. Scorsese uses dissolve sequence to create a deformity that permits the viewer to understand Travis’s consciousness and point of view.
Although Travis lives in the city, he stands bent by his own loneliness and trapped by his own isolation because he cannot seem to connect with anyone on a personal level. The value of this article is that it allows the violence of a film like Taxi Driver to be understood a little deeper as it dwells into the psyche of Travis Bickle. Travis’s contradictory intentions are confusing because he attempts to rid the city of violence by committing the ultimate act of violence, which is murder. His logic is irrational and circular as his solution suggest that violence is the only answer to alienation and loneliness. Travis takes it upon himself to play the role of Iris’s protector and save her from the evil realms of prostitution. His “antiheroic” actions stem from the need to save Iris and perhaps impress Betsy, thus, giving his life a “sense of direction”.
Neil Sinyard argues that Fred Zinnemann’s protagonists share in a courageous struggle. Through High Noon, From Here to Eternity, Nun’s Story and A Man For All Seasons, one witnesses remarkably striking similarities among the individuals and the methods Zinneman uses to enhance them.
To Zinnemann, there existed realities worse than death for a hero. Sinyard notes that High Noon’s heroic Marshal “elaborated a characteristic Zinnemann protagonist: a loner with a strong sense of duty who knows he could not live with himself if he were to go against his conscience” (67). In From Here to Eternity, though the protagonist Prewitt accomplishes relatively little, like many of Zinnemann’s other protagonists, his individualism forces others to confront uncomfortable decisions. In A Man For All Seasons, Zinnemann assumes the audience knows nothing and depicts More as a “hero of selfhood” who refuses to accede to political or social pressures. Zinnemann’s protagonists are inspirational because their decisions have a transcendent resonance with the audience. Each hero ends up confronting evil alone and without any assistance.
Zinnemann used creative visual imagery to enhance his protagonists and enhance their accessibility. In High Noon, he uses close-ups of a clock as the climax approaches. Though a Western, the central theme is a struggle of characters, not the landscape, and the flatness of the film projects that. The opening shot of From Here to Eternity shows the conflict of the individual with the group and the contrast between the purposeful path of one man and the rigidity of a group. In Nun’s Story, Zinnemann uses visual imagery to portray the horrors of war through twisted trees. With More, as he approaches his doom in the courthouse, he enters through a narrow path symbolizes the difficult path of his morality.
In short, Sinyard concludes that the enduring appeal of Thomas More, who epitomizes the personal characteristics of Zinnemann’s other protagonists, is his courage and fortitude in standing for what he felt was right even though it cost him his office and ultimately his life. What makes Zinnemann’s characters enduring and strong is that they “stay on their path that is their concept of destiny”(79) and their willingness to sacrifice everything for principle(93).
Joel Super describes A Man For All Seasons as a documentary fiction, with recurring themes appealing to the director. He also elaborates on the film’s production and appeal.
Super notes that AMFAS was, in part, an independent film because Columbia felt the film had limited appeal. Thus, the film had a small budget and was filmed in England, much to Zimmerman’s delight because it limited influence from the studio. Zinnemann took advantage of location in shooting this film. He shoots in bucolic environments to help the audience gain a sense of the underpopulated world(168) and uses mise-en-scene techniques to emphasize the gravity of developments.
Though his works may seem to be genre films, he largely avoids them. Furthermore, Super argues that Zinnemann consistently had a broad appeal because of his respect for the audience and interest in the subject. Along those lines, filmgoers enjoyed that his films broke from the relentless and nonsensical innovation of his contemporaries and the strong acting and directing he offered.
More than anything else, this film reinforces Zinnemann’s interest in the theme of a “solitary individual of integrity against the corrupt and cowardly world” (158). Though More is like other Zinnemann protagonists in that he is left without friends, he is of the upper strata and suffers at the whim of a powerful bureaucracy. The success of the film draws on Zinnemann’s strength as a documentary fiction technician. Zinnemann casts unknowns in the lead parts, like Brando in The Men and Montgomery Clift in The Search to create an element of freshness due to his firm belief that stars detracted from the story. So to in A Man For All Seasons, Zinnemann cast relatively unknown actors, and they all give fresh, powerful performances.
Ultimately, A Man for All Seasons is a Zinnemann film that utilizes politics to provide a narrative to a story largely devoid of action, stars and genre appeal that engenders itself, largely with the power of precise and intelligent dialogue, to a large audience.