Who directed Raging Bull

Like a wild bull

To be or not to be

A magical moment in cinema: the elegiac sounds of Pietro Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana" form the musical background for a remote drama in black and white, an almost heroic stylization of instinctive mightiness. It is like observing a wild animal behind the specially chosen fences, an indomitable animal power, dynamism and elegance mix in a dangerous way in this representation. The man in the coat with a leopard skin pattern moves with the precision of a predator, it is the classic staging of every boxing fighter - fast legs, powerful arms - a steady sequence of action and reaction, even in slow motion the shadow boxing works like a fixed choreography Dance within the ring, a fight against an invisible opponent, at most against your own image.

He has mastered this game. Jake La Motta (Robert de Niro) is the man in the ring, created for the boxing match, an examination of clear rules, simple principles, unmistakable maxims. Survival usually means being better than your opponent, being able to take more, ignoring pain, cultivating aggression. Never before has a film camera been closer to the athletes in the ring, portraying their torments on both sides of the ropes with such relentless imagery and at the same time throwing such a multi-layered look at one of the supposed heroes of the fistfight, a supposed winner, one who survives, over and over again . The story of middleweight boxer Jake La Motta is basically less interesting than the story of the man, husband, brother, which took place between 1941 and 1964. Martin Scorsese stages the dramatic vita of a tragic character, well aware of the glorious years of a man who has achieved more than fate actually wanted to admit, before his instinct and fear of failure take everything away from him.

It begins, like one of the many American stories, with social advancement, the escape of ethnic roots, and the continual fulfillment of the American dream. La Motta is Italian-American, a real upstart from Little Italy. In the ring he is only called the "Raging Bull" - the wild bull - because he goes to work with almost barbaric aggressiveness, because he can take it like no other, because he mows down his opponents in moments of weakness, destroys, relentlessly and attacks her in emotional rage. The animal is obvious, his actions and being have always been determined by urges and instincts and influenced throughout his life. He cannot escape them, these his fateful traits. La Motta wouldn't want it either, even if he knew of her destructive note. It is done quickly, that social advancement. However, it is not a geographical or cultural breakout from Little Italy, just a growth out of poverty and humble living conditions. The social environment of the patriarchal power system somewhere between Catholicism and organized crime is the only socialization he is actually familiar with, but at the root of the matter, as a notorious egocentric and disturbed egomaniac, he does not fit into any community structure, no matter how much it is with him self fixed. So he does not want to accept any help from the pullers behind the "big business", an admittedly fine move, but a thoroughly corrupted system in which more than opaque 'business boxes' hardly allows anything else. La Motta cannot cope with the mafia-like structures, he refuses them out of pride and stubbornness, does not want to share the success, after all, it is he who holds out the bones, he is uncomfortable with the milieu. He has no respect for anyone who surrounds him, yet he vehemently demands it for himself. Because he is stronger than everything around him, more consistent on top of that, ready to put everything on one card, because he can take more. But above all, he is unable to actually deal with people outside of the boxing ring, outside of violence, instinct and aggressiveness.

Only a few manage to get close to the person La Motta, even fewer are really important to him. The boxer is power man and macho in one, he does not trust anyone without consideration, he is not capable of sincere devotion. His brother Joey (Joe Pesci) walks with him through thick and thin, experiencing the sporting highs and human lows up close. More than anyone else, he is a confidante and yet at the same time a means to an end, the engine of success that shows the impetuous fighter on the right track. It's probably the longest relationship La Motta has ever had, and possibly one of the constants of his life. It is significant that even this cornerstone breaks apart over time and in the course of tragedy. His second marriage to Vickie (Cathy Moriarty) also suffers from the psychotic attacks of La Mottas, who cannot bring the unbridled violent people from the boxing arena outside the ring under control. Jealousy dominates his thinking, apart from the macho attitude of a man who is shaped by a culture of classic roles in marriage and relationship, the fear of disappointment and the lack of trust make him fail in every respect. He is by no means callous, not a robot that can be defined by the absence of emotionality. The first contact with Vickie, a true beauty from the neighborhood, tall, blonde, stylish, begins almost shyly. Maybe it is just a trophy, a jewel for the champion. But he tries hard to please, giving himself and her time to like each other. At first he is different from the bull from the arena, not a savage, not a big aggressor. What he lacks is the ability to love unconditionally.

On the other hand, he gets along best with his opponents. All qualities are legitimized in the ring that help La Motta to establish its true identity. The impetuous, the animalistic, the instinctual. He is not a technically fine boxer, even if he has mastered every feint. Driven by an irrepressible determination, he literally crushes his opponents on the sweat-soaked mat. Blood is everywhere, as a sign of vitality, in the midst of the sporting decision between life and death, blood means strength for the boxer, his own as well as that of the opponent. Once he asks his brother Joey to hit him in the face as hard as possible. Just like that, while sitting at the kitchen table philosophizing about boxing. La Motta does not convey a point of view here, he clarifies his deepest self. Hits are nothing for him, rainfall is no reason to stop, pain is the mainspring to strike back. He provokes Joey, who steadfastly refuses to take part in such pathological communication until he strikes. Violence is power, it's as simple as that. Meanwhile, the fights in the ring are subject to an almost symbolic transfiguration, the task of which is by no means the glorification of boxing or the poetic portrayal of hand-to-hand combat, on the contrary. Martin Scorsese's staging uses effective stylistic devices to create something like an aesthetic hell out of the boxing ring. Clouds of smoke hang over the scenery, which literally breathes decay, sweat, blood and tears. The fights, on the other hand, lack aesthetics, there is no time for big pictures, everything happens in short, choppy sequences, the cuts clatter on each other, broken by slow-motion in which blood drips from the ropes, close-ups of the faces in which horror and Mirror rage. It seems realistic, but it is and remains the realism of an artist.

Jake La Motta cannot escape it, the tendency towards self-destruction. Everything in his dramatic vita comes to an end in infinite tragedy, as the spiral of violence and mistrust cannot be turned back at will. He's not a hero, maybe not even one of the much-described anti-heroes. More animal than human, he sees himself helplessly at the mercy of his own weaknesses; the inability to bond emotionally and to be close to people makes him fail across the board. Scorsese does not deliver a moral lesson here, his film is in no way instructive or inferior to any judgmental intention. Rather, what he succeeds in here is a daring and powerful character study. An incredibly fascinating and uncomfortable portrait of a deeply lost figure who has forfeited everything that the American dream is worth living for. Truly a tragic drama that takes place there, a human failure, the last fight of an egomaniac who ultimately loses the duel with his own demons.

Patrick Joseph

This text first appeared in: www.ciao.de

There are several texts for this film in the archive of the film headquarters



Like a wild bull

(Raging Bull)

USA 1980, 129 minutes

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Screenplay: Mardik Martin, Paul Schrader, based on the book by Jack La Motta, Joseph Carter and Paul Savage

Music: Pietro Mascagni ("Intermezzo" from the opera "Cavalleria rusticana")

Camera: Michael Chapman

Editor: Thelma Schoonmaker

Production design: Gene Rudolf

Leading actors: Robert de Niro (Jake La Motta), Cathy Moriarty (Vickie La Motta), Joe Pesci (Joey La Motta), Frank Vincent (Salvy), Nicholas Colasanto (Tommy Como), Theresa Saldana (Lenore La Motta), Mario Gallo (Mario), Frank Adonis (Patsy), Joseph Bono (Guido), Frank Topham (Toppy), Lori Anne Flax (Irma), Charles Scorsese (Charlie)






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