In the opening scene of Raging Bull, Scorsese establishes the themes that control the rest of the film.
Although it looks like a long take that lacks editing, the scene is visibly employing a formalistic quality because of the abstractness. I think that throughout the film, the fight scenes have formalist tendencies while the scenes on the domestic front lean toward realism. In this first scene, Jake is depicted as shadow boxing in a smoky boxing ring, seemingly inspired by his mental and physical preparation. 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-scene, we are introduced to the dominant themes.Order now
The scene opens with a long shot of Jake, who is illuminated by top lighting. By using top lighting, Scorsese seemingly isolates Jake from the rest of the scene, commenting on jake’s isolation from those around him. Further commenting on this idea isthe idea that the people in the background outside the ring are barely visible, developing Jake’s sense of autonomy and individualism. As we watchJake gracefully dance around the ring through the ropes, we get the sense that he is caged in. Another aspect of the mise-en-scene, Jake’s leopard print robe, gives Jake an animalistic quality, signifying that he needs to be caged in the boxing ring.
The fact that Jake is on the left side of the screen 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 the leading 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 his animalistic nature as a societal outcast, incapable of well-mannered relationships 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 an animal, yelling at his wife: “Don’t overcook it. You overcook it, it’s no good. ” 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-scene to 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. The camera cuts to a medium shot of the unpredictably explosive Jake flipping the table over, steak and all.
At this point, we are introduced to Jake’s relationship with his brother and the conflict with the mob that will be a prevalent problem throughout the film. The film cross-cuts to Joey talking to Sal, agreeing to talk to Jake about an association with the mobster Tommy. Then it cross-cuts back to the apartment 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 shots 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 silhouette through the bedroom curtains from Jake’s perspective. The mise-en-scene used here gives us the feeling of an impersonal relationship between the two as Jake cannot see his wife. His threat to kill her if she breaks anything further embodies Jake’s meanness. Once the domestic argument calms down, the camera cuts to a medium two-shot of Joey and Jake at the kitchen table.
The mise-en-scene depicts Jakeon the left side of the