Watch the opening credits to Taxi Driver, and pay attention to Bernard Herrmann’s score. It’s one of the finest examples of a leitmotif I can think of in film noir, juxtaposing the cool, bluesy beauty of the world Travis Bickle thinks he inhabits with the post-traumatic sturm und drang that really drives him. It’s the central conflict of the movie, outlined in just two minutes.
These gifs show the same thoughtfulness in Scorsese’s direction. Like these images—especially the one where the side mirror seems to melt—the movie constantly teeters on the line between fantasia and bitter reality. In the end you’re left wondering, as with Lear, at how madness might be a kind of nightmare, or just a soothing dream.