In the opening scene of Raging Bull, Scorsese establishes the themesthat control the rest of the film.
Although it looks like a long take thatlacks editing, the scene is visibly employing a formalistic quality becauseof the abstractness. I think that throughout the film, the fight sceneshave formalist tendencies while the scenes on the domestic front leantoward realism. In this first scene, Jake is a depicted shadow boxing in asmoky boxing ring, seemingly inspired by his mental and physicalpreparation. Physically, he is preparing for the boxing match he will becompeting in; mentally Jake is preparing for the battles he will face inhis relationships with those around him. Through the use of mise-en-scenewe are introduced to the dominant themes.Order now
The scene opens with a long shotof Jake, who is illuminated by top lighting. By using top lighting,Scorsese seemingly isolates Jake from the rest of the scene, commenting onJake’s isolation from those around him. Further commenting on this idea isthe idea that the people in the background outside the ring are barelyvisible, developing Jake’s sense of autonomy and individualism. As we watchJake gracefully dance around the ring through the ropes, we get the sensethat he is caged in. Another aspect of the mise-en-scene, Jake’s leopardprint robe, gives Jake an animalistic quality, signifying that he needs tobe caged in the boxing ring.
The fact that Jake is on the left side of thescreen notes his weak mental position. Lastly, the non-digetic soundtrackis classical music, further commenting on the melancholy preparation forbattle. Observing this mise-en-scene, we are already familiar with theleading themes of the film without the need for a single word of dialogue. Scenes that include dialogue, such as the scene following Jake’sfirst fight when he bullies his first wife around, also express Jake’saggression and interpersonal conflicts. Jake is depicted with hisanimalistic nature as a societal outcast, incapable of well-manneredrelationships with his neighbors and even those who love him.
The sceneopens with La Motta in an undershirt, with a black-and-blue face from hisfight, with three point lighting being applied. Jake is eating like ananimal, yelling at his wife: “Don’t overcook it. You overcook it, it’s nogood. ” The desire for an undercooked, bloody steak represents Jake’scarnivorous inclination. The camera cuts to a tracking shot zooming in onan obviously irritated Irma; in the mise-en-scene there is a clock directlyin front of her head, implying that her time with Jake is coming to animminent end.
Scorsese frames Irma in the kitchen, using the mise-en-sceneto show her separateness from Jake. As the two argue about how the steakshould be cooked, we see the shot/reverse shot method of editing beingimplemented, adhering to the 180 degree rule. Exhausted by Jake’sbadgering, Irma brings the steak over to him and slaps it on his plate. Thecamera cuts to a medium shot of the unpredictably explosive Jake flippingthe table over, steak and all.
At this point we are introduced to Jake’s relationship with his brother andthe conflict with the mob that will be a prevalent problem throughout thefilm. The film cross-cuts to Joey talking to Sal, agreeing to talk to Jakeabout an association with the mobster Tommy. Then it cross-cuts back to theapartment where Jake is violently pushing his wife around as Joey entersthe frame. Irma subsequently slams the door, literally putting a barrierbetween her and her ferocious husband and figuratively showing theirisolation once again.
The off-screen voice of the neighbor Larry calls out,”What’s the matter with you up there, you animals?” The camera cuts to amedium two shot of Jake and Joey, then to a shot of Jake framed by thewindow, hollering back at Larry that he will eat his dog for lunch. Thestatement further illustrates Jake’s instinctive nature while the mise-en-scene of Jake in the window depicts his isolation from the entire societyoutside the apartment. Then we see an eye-line match of Irma’s silhouettethrough the bedroom curtains from Jake’s perspective. The mise-en-sceneused here gives us the feeling of an impersonal relationship between thetwo as Jake cannot see his wife. His threat to kill her if she breaksanything further embodies Jake’s meanness. Once the domestic argue calms down, the camera cuts to a medium twoshot of Joey and Jake at the kitchen table.
The mise-en-scene depicts Jakeon the left side of the