Martin Scorsese Slow-Motion


Jacob T. Swinney


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Martin Scorsese has acquired many trademarks over his 50-year filmmaking career. Perhaps the trademark he is best known for, something we are sure to expect when viewing a Scorsese picture, is his renowned use of slow motion. Nowadays, slow motion shots are a dime a dozen, being utilized by everyone from Michael Bay and Zack Snyder to Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson. When discussing such a popular (and possibly overused) technique, what makes Scorsese’s methods stand out and stick with us?

While the many blockbusters of today use slow motion to extend action and create drama, Scorsese seems to mostly use slow motion in order to enhance subjectivity. For example, the slow motion used during the quaalude-fueled beer pong match in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ allows us to experience the sluggish high of the characters. In “Shutter Island”, Teddy’s flashbacks, dreams, and hallucinations contain slow motion in order to emphasize his false beliefs. While these two examples utilize obvious slow motion, Scorsese’s slow motion is perhaps best when it goes almost unnoticed. When Johnny Boy makes his famous entrance in ‘Mean Streets,’ minor slow motion is used to create tension on an almost subconscious level. As Travis Bickle watches Betsy from afar in ‘Taxi Driver”, she glides through the crowd just slow enough to stand out a bit. This allows us to instantly feel Travis’ admiration–“They…cannot…touch…her.” Scorsese does not use slow motion to to add style to his films; he uses it to tell us something. Here is a look at Scorsese’s use of slow motion throughout his prolific career.