I chose this scene because it redeems Jake
LaMotta as a character. Throughout the whole
movie, Scorsese presented him in a way that
would enrage viewers over the barbarity of his
actions. With this scene it made me realize that
Jake’s outbreaks of anger and violence are
inherent in everybody, and that everybody in
life is prone to the same mistakes Jake has
The close-up shot of the light bulb which
illuminates the room contrasts with the boxing
ring, where everything was dark and murky
with smoke clouding out the crowd. The
darkness of the boxing ring symbolized the
negative energy of Jake’s emotions and his
inner blindness as a character. In contrast, the
light bulb shows his newfound clarity and his
catharsis over the events of his life.
The telephone is a metaphor for the state of
Jake’s relationships in life. Telephones are
usually used to call acquaintances that are far
away. This is the same as Jake’s relationships
in life. He wants to reach back out to his wife
and his brother, but his past misdeeds have
distanced himself too far from them.
Two objects are also used as metaphors to show how
Jake has cleaned up his life. The Kleenex box is
placed right under the mirror, as well as the iron
which can be seen in the background of the scene.
Irons are used to straighten clothing which serves as a
metaphor to how his new position as an entertainer is
‘straighter’ than his old one of a boxer. Kleenex
tissues are generally used to clean the nose of a
person. It is a a metaphor for how Jake has not only
cleaned up his profession but has cleaned himself up
as a person as well.
The close-up shot of the disarranged hangers and a
coat gives viewers a sense of being worn-out. This
helps cement the fact that Jake has given up on life
and has finally resigned himself to becoming a two-bit
entertainer. He has essentially hung-up all ambitions
left in life. The feeling of being worn-out not only
conveys that it is the end of the movie but it is also the
end of Jake LaMotta’s ambitions.
The newspapers on the desk and pictures on the wall represent the past. They are arranged in a
messy manner to show the insignificance of Jake’s past to his current position and status in life.
Also, like the coat hangers, the newspapers give viewers a feeling of being worn-out. It shows how
his violent nature and actions as a person have eroded the value of his past accomplishments.
Jake’s reign as a boxing world champion no longer holds any value because his violent tendencies
to his brother, wife, and other people outweigh any accomplishments he once had.
The key to interpreting Jake’s recitation of the scene from In the Waterfront, is the mirror. It
changes the scene, rather literally, to one of self-reflection. When Jake says the words, “It was you,
Charlie,” he is not blaming his brother or his wife for the state his life is in, he is blaming himself.
The mirror helps emphasize the point that he is talking to himself. He faults himself for falling in
the situation he is in. This ties back to the metaphor of the light bulb, which is used to show Jake’s
new sense of understanding over his past actions.
The proximity of the camera to DeNiro’s character and the wall creates a sense of claustrophobia. This
contrasts with the opening title sequence of the movie where there was an enormous amount of open
space, which was symbolic of Jake’s strong boxing ambitions. The lack of open space and claustrophobia
in this scene shows how far his dreams and ambitions have taken him. Despite all his hard work and reign
as world champion of middleweight boxing, he ends up as a measly entertainer, retaining none of the
riches he has earned before.
The scene is a single OTS
shot. Although LaMotta is set
as the dominant figure of the
shot, the only way audiences
can clearly see his face is
through the mirror. This
enforces the point that the
scene is a moment of self-
contemplation for Jake. It is
only possible to see his back
because he is looking back
and evaluating his past
Black & White
Martin Scorsese manipulated black and white to set up Jake LaMotta as the dominant
character of the scene. By having the camera set up behind LaMotta’s back, more
black is created around the scene. This distinguishes the character from the rest of the
room, which is mostly white. The black created by LaMotta’s character dominates the
room, further marking him and his monologue as the point of interest for the scene.
Moreover, this helps cement Jake LaMotta’s loneliness as a character. He used what
power he had to dominate other people and they left him completely as a result making
him completely alone.
When the man comes in telling Jake that he has five minutes left, cinematographer Michael
Chapman tilts the camera very slightly to the right just so the man’s face is just out of view. This
serves to isolate Jake LaMotta as the only character in the scene. This stresses the extent of
Jake’s loneliness and how the meaningful social relationships he once had are all gone.
The lining on the mirror creates framing by surrounding Jake’s face. This is symbolic of
the entrapment he feels from the situation he is in. Jake does not live like a former world
boxing champion. Instead, he lives like a “bum.” He states in his speech: “I coulda been
somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.” The framing enforces the fact that he
has fallen in a situation where the damage he has done to his former loved ones, his
brother and his ex-wife, has become irreversible.
John Boxer and Richard Bruno decided to have Jake wear a tuxedo in this scene, which is the
final scene of the movie. The tuxedo Jake LaMotta wears in the end stands in total contrast to the
bare, primal uniform of a boxer. This ties into the idea that Jake has truly changed as a person.
The clean formality shows how Jake has reformed as a character and that he is no longer violent
and blind. Furthermore, he has reformed himself into a man who understands his past actions.
This also ties in to the metaphor of the light bulb, which showed his level of understanding over
his emotions and past actions.
At the end of the scene, before Jake goes to
his performance, he gets up and
shadowboxes with bull-like intensity while
continuously reciting “I’m the boss, I’m the
boss…” as if to remind himself of his old
boxing days. As he shadow boxes in and
around the room his presence in the shot
gradually lessens and lessens. First his actual
presence disappears and only his reflection
remains, until he disappears completely from
the scene, all while shadowboxing and
repeating “I’m the boss, I’m the boss…”
This is representative of Jake LaMotta’s
essence as a character throughout the whole
movie. It characterizes him as a man with a
strong will whose pride remains intact even
as he loses the things he holds dear to life. It
shows how even though he has resigned all
of his life ambitions, he still retains his pride
as a man to the very end.
Scorsese ends the film with a quote from the Bible, John IX 24-26. The passage deals with themes of
second chances, redemption, and judgment; these relate to Jake’s troubles and situation. Like the man who
had been blind, Jake had been previously blind to his own violent tendencies, and now he can finally “see”
who he once was. Also, throughout the film Jake’s violent tendencies led audiences to view him as a
repugnant character. Like Jesus giving the blind man back his sight, Scorsese asks audiences to give Jake a
second chance as well. The quote teaches people not to be so hasty in placing their judgment and that the
hate for LaMotta may be no different from the hatred he formerly expressed towards other people.
The speech that is given is from a film from 1954 called On the Waterfront. The speech relates to
what has become of Jake LaMotta. He states that he was once “an up and comer who’s now a down
and outer.” Which connects to how he was once a boxing champion who once had everything, but
now he’s lost everything, including the people he once loved in life. Another line he says is that “it’s
like a peak you reach and then it’s downhill.” The line further parallels the rise and fall of Jake’s
own boxing career and social relationships. It also expresses the gradual decline of Jake’s perceived
value of his own life.
When the other man comes in, he tells Jake that “[he’s] got about five minutes.” This line is a
case of dramatic irony. Like Jake, who has 5 minutes left the prepare for his show, the movie
also has just as much time left until the ending. Later, Jake asks the man “There a lot of people
out there?” and the man replies, “Yeah, sure.” The line of dialogue shows how LaMotta has an
intrinsic desire to amaze and impress other people. The boxing rings he fought in before
contained thousands of people in the crowd. Jake desires the same attention and seeks to fulfill
his desires by entertaining other people.
The scene begins with several close-up shots
of various objects, such as a telephone or a
light bulb. It then moves on to a long
continuous shot of LaMotta speaking with
very little camera movement. Lastly, while
DeNiro can be heard shadowboxing, the
sound abruptly ends and the movie cuts to a
completely black screen with a Biblical
quote slowly revealing itself. The close-up
shots at the beginning heighten the feeling of
claustrophobia in the scene. LaMotta’s
speech is left as one long, continuous shot
because contemplation is a very slow
process, and the continuous shot mimics that
calmness. Finally, the the film cuts right
when LaMotta has no presence at all in the
scene. He can be heard shadowboxing until
the film cuts right when he takes a break.
The purpose of this is to show the extent of
how far he has fallen and how he holds
nothing left in life.
The camera is placed so that the scene is shot at eye level. This is used to depict Jake
LaMotta from a more human perspective. Scorsese uses this angle to bring audiences closer
to him and evaluate him as a human. It causes audience to rethink this character as
someone who has made mistakes anyone else could have made. This interpretation is
reinforced by the quote from the Bible at the end of movie, which deals with the concept of
placing judgment upon others.
Raging Bull is the antithesis to Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky. Unlike Rocky and other typical sport movies,
Raging Bull does not end with a climatic confrontation with a rival. The movie’s final scene consists of
Jake talking to himself in front of a mirror. This establishes the fact that the real antagonist and villain of
the movie is Jake LaMotta himself. His shortsightedness and violent actions are the causes of his troubles
and misfortune in life, not by anyone else in the film. It is also interesting to note that the ending consists
of Jake calmly contemplating the events of his life, this contrasts with the bloody boxing confrontation at
the end of Rocky. Jake is not surrounded by a crowd numbering the thousands, it ends with him in a
cramped up room while wearing a classy suit. This sets aside Raging Bull from other boxing and sports
films, setting it up as an important drama as well as a violent boxing movie.