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A question about the end of Taxi Driver
#1
I don't know how many people look at Jeffrey Wells' site, Hollywood Elsewhere, but
recently he was saying how the ending of Taxi Driver always bothered him. Spoilers
will follow for anyone who hasn't seen the film.




Mr. Wells thinks that Travis dies at the end and that the last sequence, with the news-
paper stories and the letter from Iris' parents and the visit from Betsy, is a complete
wish-fulfillment fantasy on the part of Travis as he lay dying from his gunshot wounds.
He points out that, after he drops Betsy off, there's a shot of Travis's reflection in the
cab's rearview mirror, and then it suddenly disappears, and Mr. Wells says that's be-
cause Travis isn't there. Now, I didn't remember that last shot, and I hadn't seen
Taxi Driver in about four years. So I put it in my DVD player, and he's right about
that shot. I'm just wondering what others think about this. I had always believed
that the ending was some kind of ironic comment by Scorsese and/or Schrader on
the glorification by the media on someone who is actually a psychopath. But maybe
I'm wrong and Mr. Wells is right. I'd be interested to see what others think. Thanks.
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#2
Interesting....the ending really bugged me, too.

Some people claim the end of Minority Report is also a wish fulfillment fantasy; I'm not so sure.

I think in this case it's meant to be ambiguous, but the sudden shift in tone struck me as very bizarre. What's especially weird is, though it seems likely this is Travis's fantasy, it's a totally non-violent one, and one of just being accepted and loved. Are we supposed to infer that this is what he really wants? That--despite his violent attitude--he's ultimately a very moral person looking for recognition?

I'm not sure...
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#3
discussed here: http://chud.com/forums/showthread.php?t=65631
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#4
I think a lot of people have the same theory about the end of "King of Comedy," all the stuff about Rupert having a best selling book may have been all in his head.

I just hope the ending of "Timecop" wasn't wish fulfillment, that would really bum me out.
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#5
Travis lives at the end. Both Schrader and Scorsese have said so multiple times in interviews, I'm pretty sure it also comes up in the DVD documentary.
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#6
Scorsese also mentioned that Travis' bizarre, jittery look into the rearview is a clue that he's still not well, and that he'll eventually go off again. I don't know how in the hell people got a dream explanation out of all of this.
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#7
Quote:

Originally Posted by JacknifeJohnny

Scorsese also mentioned that Travis' bizarre, jittery look into the rearview is a clue that he's still not well, and that he'll eventually go off again. I don't know how in the hell people got a dream explanation out of all of this.

People got a dream explanation out of it because:

1. He gets shot so much he should be dead.

2. The change in tone is startling to say the least.

3. The events which take place afterwards are not exactly realistic, which is surprising after such a gritty film.

4. There's mentally subjective imagery (shakey camera.)

5. We've been watching The Sixth Sense and Usual Suspects too much.
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#8
I always looked at it as a dream, maybe a coma dream. Basically because of the way Travis is this completely socially inept guy whose attempts at romance fail miserably, and it's like he's building himself up in his mind as this up and coming lothario/Dirty Harry type, and at the end, he's the hero. And the way he and Betsy seem to interact in the cab is almost as if it's the end of a Bond movie, where he's now this fantastic hero and socially acceptable/adept person who can now woo the chicks.

But it turns out I was wrong, so nevermind.
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#9
That's strange. I was sure I'd read an interview with Scorsese where he said Travis dies at the end.
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#10
nope, both taxi driver and king of comedy's endings are comments on the media, and how they can turn psychos into celebrities.
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#11
One thing is for sure - if Ridley Scott had filmed it, he'd just smile enigmatically at everyone's questions.
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#12
if what people are saying is true about travis dying at the end
then that makes this a much better film. i hated the ending maybe
that is becuase i jusr did not get it. one second he is trying to kill
the mayor and the next he is killing pimps and he is hero. if he died
then that would make the story so much better
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#13
Obviously you can interpret it either way, even if Scorcese has his own specific interpretation. I personally find the "Travis is dead, and therefore a moral guy looking for stability and acceptance in a corrupt society" version much more interesting than the "The media glorifies violence!!!" explanation.
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#14
Quote:

Originally Posted by rise above

if what people are saying is true about travis dying at the end
then that makes this a much better film. i hated the ending maybe
that is becuase i jusr did not get it. one second he is trying to kill
the mayor and the next he is killing pimps and he is hero. if he died
then that would make the story so much better

killing sport was not much different to his thwarted (and perhaps impotent) attempt to kill palantine. one was a substitute for the other. the only difference was the way it was viewed by society (and, from the sound of it, you) travis was obviously no better than the scum he talked about, and in the end he hadn't changed a bit. what does the fantasy version of the ending accomplish other than to drive home the fact that travis really was disturbed- something that was already obvious.

on the other hand, having travis live and us see the consequences of his actions play out (namely, that there were no consequences) shows that we are all living in a world that can, depending on the circumstance, not just stand for but actually endorse this violence. far more than just a indictment of the media glorifying violence, it makes us all complicit in travis' depravity.
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#15
Quote:

Originally Posted by Fett

And the way he and Betsy seem to interact in the cab is almost as if it's the end of a Bond movie, where he's now this fantastic hero and socially acceptable/adept person who can now woo the chicks.

Funny. I always saw this as more of a comment on women and their attraction to fame and less about Travis himself.
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#16
Sign of a great movie. Lots of perfectly viable interpretations.
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#17
Definitely. Taxi Driver's one of the best character studies in cinema ever.
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#18

There is an ambiguity in the ending that the creators did acknowledge.  I think it was either Scorsese or Schrader that said it was left vague as to whether or not she really gets in his car at the end, or if that's just a fantasy, because you only see her in the rear view mirror up until she gets out, and then you see Travis give the mirror that look...

Also, another thing to keep in mind is that Paul Schrader said the film was about loneliness, and if anything the "He died at the end" theory seems like more of a cop out ending than the other way around... To quote the screenwriter yet again, "the ultimate tragedy is that he survives at the end".

Its sort of a complicated flick, where you discover more and more the more you watch it, and the ending is one of the stranger parts no doubt.  I think a lot of people use the "he died and the end of the movie is wish fulfillment/ his final thoughts" as a way of making sense of such a jarring twist ending, especially now, as whenever there is a surprising ending in a movie it is accompanied by an altered reality (ie. Shutter Island).


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#19

But also, it is pretty ambiguous, which is nice. You can't say anything in the movie happens exactly like you see it because it's all through Travis' warped perspective, but at what point is questioning the reality of film events just ridiculous speculation, like "what if the whole part where he has a mohawk is just fantasy"...there are really no definitive answers either way, other than the film maker's words, and who knows, maybe they're both lying?

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#20

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bailey View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by rise above
if what people are saying is true about travis dying at the end
then that makes this a much better film. i hated the ending maybe
that is becuase i jusr did not get it. one second he is trying to kill
the mayor and the next he is killing pimps and he is hero. if he died
then that would make the story so much better
killing sport was not much different to his thwarted (and perhaps impotent) attempt to kill palantine. one was a substitute for the other. the only difference was the way it was viewed by society (and, from the sound of it, you) travis was obviously no better than the scum he talked about, and in the end he hadn't changed a bit. what does the fantasy version of the ending accomplish other than to drive home the fact that travis really was disturbed- something that was already obvious.

on the other hand, having travis live and us see the consequences of his actions play out (namely, that there were no consequences) shows that we are all living in a world that can, depending on the circumstance, not just stand for but actually endorse this violence. far more than just a indictment of the media glorifying violence, it makes us all complicit in travis' depravity.

You summed it up quite well there. He's just as much the violent psychopath, if not more so given that he actually acted on his impulse with the pimps, but because said violence lead to something that can be romanticized as a form of heroism (the girl being saved), Travis' actions can be applauded by some. He's esentially the sociopath who planned to shoot up his work one day but through circumstance, ended up pointing that murderous rage at a pack of loathsome criminals instead of his co-workers. He's labeled "courageous" by virtue of oppportuinty.

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#21

Part of the jarring beauty of the movie is Travis's dreamlike point of view.  Taxi Driver is my favorite movie because of how unlike a movie and more like an actual subjective experience of real life it is.

And speaking of Taxi Driver, avatar/saying, Bailey. o_0

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#22

Travis is a highly impressionable character, an outsider to the world.  Possibly mentally scarred from Vietnam and just trying to fit in, I think he is almost at a blank state. In the end the newspapers lead him to belief that he is a hero, when in fact Travis is whatever you want him to be. The entire film he takes subtle suggestions, lets them consume his character and holds onto them desperately. His cab friend suggesting he own a gun, the man about to murder his wife with a 44 magnum which he buys later, the idea of murder from the man about to kill his wife, becoming a supporter of Senator Palantine without knowing a thing about him. As he says to the pimp criticizing his appearance, "I'm hip." Then he goes out and cuts his hair.. Even the romanticized relationship he wants with Betsy; a subtle suggestion from the soap operas he watches on television. Travis is battling supposedly two different worlds, the world deemed normal with the nicely dressed and seemingly civilized people organizing a campaign for Senator Palantine, and the other battle is the world of the streets and the slums. The difference is if Travis had killed Palantine, he would have been deemed crazy but instead kills the pimp and is praised a hero. The act of murder is the same either way, just viewed differently by the world and the media. To him, there is no difference. All the animals come out at night. He is indeed alive in the end and he is whatever you want him to be.

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#23

If you follow the music at the very end of Taxi Driver, he's driving away to the "nice" music, then he looks at his rear view mirror, and he's not there. This is clearly a hint to the psychosis of Travis. The music continues with the sax through the end credits, then it shifts to the darker music, and Travis appears in the rear view again. I think that this means its only a matter of time before he goes off again, at what we don't know. Had he killed the politician, the media would have declared him insane. But since he "saves" the little girl from the pimps, the insanity is ignored and he is revered a hero. I do not , however, think that it is a "coma dream" ending. I think the ending is what it is and gives us a glimpse of society putting us down, lifting us up and driving us insane.....

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#24

I realize I'm late to the party here but I just watched TD for the first time last night on El Rey. I'd always heard about this movie and wanted to see it for myself. I enjoyed it very much. My take on the ending was that it was either a delusion of Travis's death or the implication that none of it had ever actually occurred. The two takes that led me to this is (1) There was no attempt to show any scarring on his neck when he was talking with Sybil IE it was all in his mind. And (2)  Standing around talking with the guys (other taxi drivers) he was acting in a completely normal fashion like he was a normal guy all along.

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#25
AI figured the ending is some frustrated dream Travis had after failing to kill Palentine. Right after he debuts his Mohawk, I believe, after he's chased by the secret service guys he goes home and takes a nap.

Sorry if someone already mentioned this, btw.
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#26

I don't understand the appeal of thinking that the ends of fictional movies are extra fictional.  The ending being a fantasy just dilutes its potency to...what end, exactly?

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#27
Really disappointed somebody hasn't used the word "Deathdream" yet.


I've said it before, I'll say it again: Lost ruined everything.


By the way, my ghost typed this.
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#28
APeople always seem to have to graft all kinds of nonsense onto a film's ending. It baffles me.
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#29
A[quote name="Mangy" url="/community/t/78189/a-question-about-the-end-of-taxi-driver#post_3947184"][/quote]

I was thinking The Sixth Sense, though more of an overt plot twist rather than alternative reading of the text.

I know there's something out there about Let The Right One In as well, with Eli being a figment of Oskar's imagination or somesuch bullshit - which only works if you completely discount the several scenes in which Oskar plays no part.
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#30

Ronald H. Witt  This is one of my favorite films but the ending still perplexes me even after reading all your descriptions.  I just watched it again for like the hundredth time and I am still confused by the ending.

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#31
AIt seems jarring cybil Shepard would get in the cab and it might be my imagination but when they pan over the newspaper clippings and letter from Jodi Fosters parents the portraits in the newspaper don't seem to be Deniro
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#32

oh god

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