THE SPECTACLE OF REDEMPTION: GUILT AND VIOLENCE IN MARTIN SCORSESE’S RAGING BULL
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Of all the characters that undertake a search for redemption in Martin Scorsese’s films, perhaps it is the story of Jake La Motta in Raging Bull that for many reasons presents the greatest challenge to understanding redemption’s role in the narratives of his films. Is Jake La Motta a redeemed character at the end of Raging Bull? I argue that Scorsese uses Raging Bull to criticize a ritualistic view of redemption by portraying the beginning of Jake’s search as a futile attempt to submit himself to a public spectacle of ritual violence in the boxing ring while visually relating this to the Catholic sacraments and the crucifixion. It will only be later—in the loneliness of a jail cell, estranged from his family and without having to have had gone through a rite—that Jake achieves the self-awareness redemption requires.
This paper was written while on sabbatical leave as a Fulbright Scholar at the Department of English of the University of Maryland. I would like to express my gratitude to Jonathan Auerbach and Caitlin McGrath who read the first version of this paper.
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