Blog Archives

The Cause of Such a Rage

When viewing a film, one of the best ways of determining whether its good or bad is through the actors and their acting skills. So what defines good or bad acting? It is easier for us to define a bad film because we tend to notice it more. When good acting is going on, we overlook the acting technique and get on with the narrative. When bad acting is going on, it hits us right away. Perhaps the actors are overdoing it. Maybe they are over-exaggerating certain feelings or maybe not showing enough of the feelings at all. When it is apparent that the acting is done poorly, it is hard to notice anything else. Anyone can make this judgeship. What about good acting? When you think about it, this question is much more difficult to answer. Well, the only way to answer it is to evaluate a film known for its excellent acting.

The film, Raging Bull, is a biographical film about Jake LaMotta, a man with horrific rage. He is a middleweight boxer who uses his rage to win battles in the ring, but outside of the ring, it slowly begins to ruin his life. For this role, a man was needed to make this anger believable. Nobody fit this role better than Robert De Niro. Robert De Niro is known as a method actor, meaning that he connects the feelings of the character with his own experiences. He does research and preparation for his roles. For this role in particular, he spent time with Vicki LaMotta, the wife of Jake LaMotta. He also trained with Jake LaMotta and became as good as a ranked middleweight. Finally, he gained 60 pounds after the fight scenes were shot to play the older Jake LaMotta. By doing this as an actor, he is able to become the character making it more believable to the audience.

Not only did he study and prepare for his role, but he got through the challenges of acting this out on film. As opposed to stage actors, film actors have a lack of rehearsal, out of continuity shooting, the impact of other contributors, and having to go along with film technology. Also, film actors only perform a few minutes at a time, so they do not have the time to really develop their character as the narrative continues. Finally, film actors have limited control over their performance. Especially for this role, De Niro had to act specifically to how Jake LaMotta would act. This is why studying his character was so important because he needed to be that exact person in the film. Jake LaMotta was known for his frustration and his story unfolds through how this frustration affects all the relationships in his life.

De Niro uses failure of language as well as his body language to show such frustration. One of the first scenes of the film, LaMotta is yelling at his first wife for not cooking his steak the way he wants it. He wants it more rare and she overcooks it. This suggests that his character is carnivorous in a sense. He likes his steak almost right off the bone. As for the fighting, he seems to yell at his wife for the silliest reasons. He got so heated in this scene that one of his neighbors starts complaining about the noise and refers to him as an animal. Of course, given his character, he yells back at the neighbor.  This obviously shows how uncontrollable he rage is. It gives the audience a sense of who he is as a person so they will later understand the cause of his self-defeating life. Such a cause eventually leads to him losing his first wife as well as many other important figures in his life. He creates his own destruction.

Overall, De Niro delivers an excellent performance because he successfully shows the audience who Jake LaMotta really is. He portrays such frustration and rage with ease and makes LaMotta’s loss look to be a result of that. The purpose of this film, according to the director, Martin Scorsese, was to criticize violence and the negative effects of masculinity. This is achieved through De Niro’s act. Although LaMotta seems tough and masculine, such attributes end up destroying him. It is not about being defined through domination because that can only lead to even more frustration and loss of control. It is about being in control and about picking your fights.