Martin Scorsese Director Study

Directors all have a distinct style and context to films they’ve produced which draw in the audience. Martin Scorsese has been the director behind masterpieces such as “Mean Street” (1973), “Taxi Driver” (1976) and “The Wolf of Wall street” (2013). His distinct Auteur is how the audience identifies his films from others and give his films an originality and conceptual style which allows the audience to identify with the film. Scorsese has created films which have fit the need of both what appeals to the audience and what is topical and contemporary in the film industry. This essay will be evaluating how Scorsese, as a director, has had a major impact on the film industry and the way the media uses Content, Context and Technology to express an idea to the audience. Scorsese is well known for his Neo-Noir genre films and his reflections of social and political concerns in American society. Overall, this essay will examine Martin Scorsese as a Director and his influence on the film industry.

“Goodfellas” (Directed by Martin Scorsese; 1990) is a heavily noir biographical mob/gangster film, which could be labels as Scorsese’s biggest success. It has become an iconic film because of it’s use of iconography, narrative, structure, ideology and cultural reference. This film is based around the style of neo-realism, which is the concept of capturing reality as it gives the film a feeling of realism and the audience thinks more about the reality of the screen action. The way he designed he film had countered the typical romanticised image of gangsters. The films “Scarface” (Directed by Brian De Palmer; 1983) had been a major influence on Scorsese when he was making this film because of it’s view the gangster being the protagonist. Although this film is based on a novel, Martin Scorsese uses Scarface as a model for his films. His uses the characters from this film as an example for his ow characters. Scorsese’s use of character has assisted in reflecting the social and political concerns in America. The way the actors have portrayed the characters under Scorsese’s direction has been designed to show the audience how deep down, even though we know of the dark lifestyle of the gangsters, we still want to be apart of the extravagant and community. This all links to america’s social and political issues as it shows how the gangster life is appealing even though it is dangerous. The best example of Scorsese’s style of film is in the scene when Karen Hill (played by Lorraine Bracco), the femme fatale of the movie, is threatening to shoot Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta), the male protagonist, for cheating on her. The structure of the film, excluding the first shot, is based on the 5 act structure. This particular scene is the falling action of the pair. Their relationship has gotten to a downwards spiral and is now at it’s low point. These two characters are very important to the scene as they have both been put into the gangster life without physically being born into it. Henry Hill’s character, when illustrated by Scorsese, was purposefully designed to demonstrate the morality issues of people under high-pressure situations, his being his life in a gang. Karen Hill’s character was made to be the feminine representative of the mob life and also a representative for the viewer of a relatable character. Karen married into the gangster life where as Henry and the rest were apart of the lifestyle because they specifically choose to be. In this particular scene, their relationship has lost meaning and the pair are both at their lowest moment. Scorsese uses a limited amount to cuts and a mid shot to give the screen a Neo-realistic feel and captured the realism and emotion of the scene. The mid shots of the two characters give us a view of their expressions and their reaction to the whole situation. Henry looks more disappointed then frightened by Karen with her gun. Karen, on the other hand, looks more vulnerable then powerful. This brings situational irony into the scene. Scorsese had written Karen to be a strong and powerful individual yet in this instance, when she has a strength advantage, she is more vulnerable then ever. If she were to shoot her gun, it would mean that she has truly become apart of he gang life and gone down to their level of killing. In this scene, she doesn’t shoot the gun but their is a silent tension built into the situation where we question whether she would genuinely shoot the gun or not, making us question her morality. This contrasts against the first shot of the film where Henry is in a similar situation where a man needs to be killed. Henry openly kills the man because he is openly apart of the gangster life were as Karen isn’t and doesn’t shoot him. She had said in a voiceover “But still I couldn’t hurt him. How could I hurt him? I couldn’t even bring myself to leave him. The truth was that no matter how bad I felt I was still very attracted to him. Why should I give him to someone else? Why should she win?” This is important to understanding the psychological characteristics of her as it shows what she is feeling on the inside. The voiceover allows for the audience to feel more connected to her. There voiceover is a form of breaking the 4th wall by talking to the audience. She is talking to the audience, even though she doesn’t use personal pronouns directed at us. Karen is speaking her own opinions of murdering someone in her own community. The juxtaposition of the pairs reactions reflect the possible reactions society would have to violence and the corruption of people mind when under pressure.

On the other hand, “Shutter Island” (Directed by Martin Scorsese; 2010) was a film created 20 years later. This film, although doesn’t necessarily have the same plot, still has similar conventions as his previous film which has only evolved. This neo-noir fictionalised crime thriller film, although hasn’t had the same success as “Goodfellas”, has the potential to be an iconic film. Similarly to his previous films, Shutter Island is based about the corruption of society and the social issues. This film is much more … This film follows the same conventions of his previous however it does have some differences so the film is up to date with the publics interests and the technological advancements in the industry (e.g. CGI). This film, same to Goodfellas, uses a 5 act structure to show the rise and fall of the character Marshal Teddy Daniels (played by Leonardo di Caprio), the male protagonist. This film however has a non-linear narrative, going back and forth between memories of his dead wife, war and the present era. Goodfellas does touch onto that idea of a non-linear narrative when they use a shot from the middle of the ilm and extract it into the beginning of the film. Scorsese would be more confident now to use this technique in his film because of his furthered 20 years experience in directing films. This makes the audience more aware of Teddy’s mental state and his unstable situation. This film looks into the mental issues occurring from the corruption in a person life but is a different way from Goodfellas. With Goodfellas, we are able to see the obvious rise of Henry’s character because the film shows us him from the age of 13 through till his later age where as this film goes straight into him being a placed on the island. This shows more how the institution causes the rise and fall of his character, which adds to the political concern over whether the public is concerned enough over the psychological corruption of mental facilities, whether you are or aren’t patient. The end of this film, the resolution, Scorsese designed it to have an anti-plot ending, where there is no final conclusion of whether Teddy is a patient or an actual marshal, so we understand how he felt in the situation and have a better understanding of the destruction your own morality have have on your mentality. The best example of this is his first dream of his deceased wife, Rachel (played by Emily Mortimer), and his psychological dream. Many of the mise en scene in this scene and the position of everything references to the painting “Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy” by David Hockney. It reflects the indues between the pair without their being any obvious visible acknowledgements of the pairs resentment for each other. This shot shows the pairs resentment for each other but in a psychological way which reflects the issues Ted is having and what many people may be having over their psychological self.

Scorsese himself said that, “I just know it from what I saw, on the streets and when I saw it and lived it, that’s the way it should be on film…I wanted to create that type of exhilaration into the film.” He was born in 1942 in New York, so has grown up in the same era and place as his film’s protagonists. This indicates that Scorsese’s protagonists were all based around the same setting of New York in the 50s to 80s when there was an outbreak of gangster violence. This during the time of gangsters such as Whitey Bulger, Kray Brothers, and the Goodfellas Protagonist Henry Hill. Scorsese using this setting to allow both himself and actors to conjoin their own experiences during that time period and the written script. The use of planned impromptu gave the film a realistic feel and gave the scene an authenticity that could be shot using purely scripted dialogue. The most well known scene to have done this was Goodfellas “Funny How?” with Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito. “Shutter Island”, although fictionalised place, had contained similar conventions to Goodfellas to give this movie the same feel as a heavily Noir film – violence, thrills, darkness, corruption. Gangster films are typically based around New York gangsterism and are produced during a period when there is a spike in murders rate in order to show the public the concerns of america’s social and political issues via gangs. 

The way Scorsese directed… The actors would loosely follow the script rather then impromptu…don’t act like these people, behave like them. He knows so well what actors need.


Goodfellas: The Making of A Classic – YouTube |