An Emmy, Oscar, Golden Globe and countless other awards litter director Martin Scorsese’s trophy case, serving as a testament to his skill and proficiency as a director (Martin Scorsese-Awards). The span of Scorsese’s work is vast and inspires many actors and directors worldwide. Many others in Hollywood unsuccessfully emulate Scorsese’s distinct imprint on film, as they fail to capture and display a trait that Scorsese has seemed to perfect: the ability to show a vulnerability in his characters through his use of thorough character development, and bleak portrayal of the world that they live in.
To depict strong protagonists Scorsese proves that his main characters are all tough and ...view middle of the document...
The opening scenes tend to be some ten to twenty years before where the major action and plot of the story take place, while the following scene jumps directly into the future. These early scenes show the major characters at their most reliant and innocent age: as young children.
In The Aviator, we see the beginnings of Hughes’ fear of germs stemming from his mother instilling fear into her son and in The Gangs of New York the viewer can empathize with Amsterdam, who watched his father perish in his arms at a young age. In The Departed, Costigan isn’t specifically shown as a young boy but his childhood is frequently referenced with an emphasis on his father. By emphasizing that Costigan’s father was a straight-laced man who only wanted to protect his son from the crime around them we can understand Costigan more thoroughly. Regardless of the specific situation the time gap shows vulnerability in the characters and helps us to understand them as adults.
Even when those children grow up, they are made to seem vulnerable by shots that render them small in context. One such shot is the wide landscape shot that encompasses large areas. These shots come when Hughes is flying over Hollywood or when Costigan is staring out into Boston or after zooming out following the Five Points brawl. Each scenario shows the massive cities which each of the characters finds himself in. The shot usually starts close to the main character and then zooms away, until a big city scene is all that is left and the character is a mere speck on the screen. This representation of the characters highlights their insignificance in comparison to the colossal and thriving worlds around them.
To add to the image of insecurity and insignificance, Scorsese uses the recurring theme of the corruption of authority figures. The protagonists are often at the mercy of these officials and defenseless against them. In The Aviator, the corrupt official takes the form of Senator Owen Brewster, who is in the pocket of Pan-Am CEO Juan Trippe. Brewster uses his political power and, with the help of Trippe, attempts to take down Hughes and his empire.
In The Departed Sullivan who is a high-ranking police officer, is in fact, a spy for Costello; giving Costello tips every time the police get close to catching him. Finally, The Gangs of New York is filled with corruption including Officer Mulraney and William “Boss” Tweed who are loyal to the Butcher and do his bidding.
The corruption of police officers and politicians adds to the sense of hopelessness because it leaves the main characters with nowhere to turn for help. When Costigan discovers Sullivan’s real identity, he has nowhere to turn to in regards to the police, so he has to go to his therapist. Amsterdam also is faced with little alternative when dealing with the corrupt officials and ends up killing Officer Mulraney and siding with Tweed. These corrupt officials help paint the picture of the big and bad world to which our...