Raging Bull is a masterpiece of cinema, but what most people don’t know, is the film re-captivated Martin Scorsese’s career after a disappointing New York New York (1977).
Martin Scorsese stated that he wasn’t even sure if the film was going to get distributed, that he was making the film for both himself and De Niro. The two of them read the autobiography (De Niro reading the autobiography of LaMotta during the film process of Godfather 2). Got the legendary Paul Schrader to write the script with the help of Mardik Martin. Robert De Niro had to gain 60 pounds for his portrayal of the broken down Jake LaMotta!
Raging Bull doesn’t much follow a clear narrative path, we understand that Jake (De Niro) wants to become World Middleweight champion but it’s his path there, his violence and temper in the ring that destroy’s his life outside of it, developing a fear of sexuality and paranoia towards his wife Vicki (Moriarty).
Scorsese like Taxi Driver (1976) uses slow motion in Raging Bull when Jake is watching over her every motion, the close ups used to develop paranoia, the technique develops an atmosphere of tension and claustrophobia and makes us fear for Vickie and Jake’s mental state.
Raging Bull is a film about a man’s jealousy, a jealousy that eventually defeated him in his later years, leaving him with nothing but past memories. His only true relationship was his brother that he betrayed through his jealousy. De Niro’s last lines quoted from ‘On the Waterfront’, “I coulda’ bean a contender, I coulda’ been somebody, instead of bein’ a bum, which lets face it, is what I am”. De Niro is not talking about the his life in the ring, he’s talking about the one outside of it.