A Dreamer Walking

Martin Scorsese- An Observation- Tragedy

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on February 16, 2011

Martin Scorsese seems to addicted to tragedy. In both the films Scorsese highlights as his favorite and in the films he has made himself tragedy plays a key role. We can see it all the way back in Mean Streets, where Robert De Niro plays the self destructive thug Johnny Boy. From the very beginning of the movie Johnny owes several people money. Through out the film Johnny digs a deeper and deeper hole for himself by avoiding to pay anyone off. Johnny digs such a big hole that he and his closest friends pay dearly for it at the end.

The movie Raging Bull has another great example of one of Scorsese’s tragic figures. The boxer Jake La Motta goes from being the champion of the world to a cheap bar performer barely making a living through retelling his story to a bunch of drunks every night. Look at Scorsese’s Goodfellas, Gangs of New York, Aviator, and The Departed and you will see a resounding tragic end.

I have been trying to figure out what makes the “tragedy” so interesting to Martin Scorsese. I think it partially has to do with Scorsese believing tragedy is more in tune with reality. Scorsese was one of the first filmmakers to bring Hollywood the “antihero”. We are not supposed to love most of Scorsese’s characters. In fact, most of Scorsese’s characters are full of problems and unlikable qualities. Most of his characters have a quite tragic existence. In Raging Bull we go on a personal journey with a fighter who doesn’t know how to connect with people in a personal way. In Goodfellas we see a con man who has money but nobody to really love and nobody to really be loved by. And, in Aviator we see a great innovator who is trapped by his own demons. All these main characters go against the typical Hollywood tradition.

So why do we keep on going back? If the movies are full of tragedy and the characters aren’t too likable, what is there to keep us stimulated? I think it has to do with an essence of truth in all Scorsese’s tragic characters. We are in a way attracted to the characters he displays because his characters explore freely the things we as society try to keep secret. If we really evaluated ourselves personally we would all find we have some of the same flaws the characters in Scorsese’s movies have. We have demons we fight with, we have a hard time connecting with others, and we have a hard time finding or feeling love.

Movies are not about the happy ending. Movies are about opening our eyes to new things. Tragedy is often something we have a hard time looking at. Scorsese is able to bring us tragedy in a interesting and insightful way. This is one of the reasons Scorsese is a great filmmaker. I personally think Scorsese is trapped by the tragic figure at times. He does not quite know how to express anyone else in a clear light. It might very well be he does not believe there is a such thing as a character who does not eventually end in tragedy. However, no matter whether Scorsese concentrates on tragedy because he feels like he can’t do anything else or he does it because he wants to bring us a new perspective on the tragic figure, we can learn from his movies. Often having a story not end where we expect or even where we want it to end makes us think more then when we as the audience get our way.

One Response

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  1. Minnow said, on February 19, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Nice. Great insight into Martin and the rest of us as well. Also well put together. I think you thought about this more than the Eastwood one! At least is sounds well thought out! and tightly written.


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