The average trip to the theater will indulge the lesser senses, relaxing the mind while also discovering the storyline as the film progresses. When approaching a film with an analytical mindset it is important to have a deeper more developed thought process. Small details within a movie can prove to have extreme importance to the storyline sometimes having multiple meanings. While analytically watching the film The Departed it is apparent that the director Martin Scorsese uses an immense amount of symbolism along with character representation to develop the storyline.
The use of animal clothing to represent the alpha male is a use of symbolism within the film that is a reoccurring. Another use of symbolism can be found in the shot of the Massachusetts State Building which entails the desire of a more lawful existence and the shot is also a reoccurring image throughout the film. The question of “what is loyalty” is a big idea that the director develops with the use of several characters along with meaningful dialogue.
In Martin Scorsese’s The Departed the theme of loyalty is expressed along with the symbolism of the state building and animal clothing.
In the film The Departed Matt Damon’s character Collin Sullivan infiltrates the Massachusetts State Police department as a detective who is secretly working as an informant for the Irish Mob lead by Frank Costello who is played by Jack Nicolson. Meanwhile Leonardo Dicaprio’s character Billy Costigan is placed in an undercover position within Frank Costello’s crime ring.
The two informants are placed in a state of confusion as to their true identity when they become consumed with their double lives. The challenge of uncovering the identity of each other is introduced when both parties, the Police Department and the Irish Mob discover that there is a mole inside their units. Both characters reach a tragic end once their identity is reviled.
Throughout the film The Departed the Irish Mob leader Frank Costello is viewed as a dominant character. This idea arises from the ruthlessness that Frank demonstrates in his criminal lifestyle. Committing multiple murders which were done in an extremely horrid manner gives supporting evidence of Frank’s dominance. Having multiple people operating under him shows that he is the leader in that he does not ask for respect he demands it. Like the lion, Frank is the king of his concrete jungle.
He has a hand in every criminal occurrence and knows of everything going on in the community around him. If any person in the community rivals Frank in any way he eliminates the threat by any means, keeping him in the highest position of power. People seem to fear Frank for the threat of what he is capable of doing so if he is not respected or disobeyed in any way then severe consequences will result. Martin Scorsese takes certain scenes in which it is important for Frank to be feared and uses underlying symbolism to develop his ideas.
“I’m not the cops I’m not asking”. The first scene in which animal clothing is used to show Frank dominant position is his first meeting with Billy Costigan. Frank talks down to Costigan in this scene exerting his dominance and at one point beating him repeatedly in his broken hand asking several times if Costigan is a cop. Frank uses certain dialogue to show his position of high power giving evidence that he is the king of his concrete jungle. Another scene in which Frank is shown wearing animal clothing is the scene in which Billy Costigan is meeting with Frank inside his condominium on the harbor.
The true ruthlessness of Frank is yet again shown when he pulls the hand of a recently assassinated protestant man from a plastic bag. Frank then looks to Billy and says “a man can look at anything and make something out of it. For instance, I look at you and I think what can I use you for?” This entails that Frank does not truly care about Billy and that he is just another tool for Frank to use to achieve success. In this scene several responses occur, one is that Frank is a dominant tactician. An additional response comes through the symbolism of the animal clothing. This response is that Frank has an apparent disregard for human life.
There is a moral obligation of people in a normal society to avoid harming one another. In the animal kingdom survival of the fittest is the law in which the animals abide by throughout daily life. Frank defies the normality of typical humans in that he has no moral obligations to take care of anyone. He eliminates anyone who interferes with his business or anyone who stands between him and accomplishing his goals. Like the lion Frank understands that if killing is the only option to keep him alive or out of jail then he will go to any end to preserve his way of life and better himself. He does what it takes to survive living life with a ruthless strong animal like persona. This idea is clearly represented throughout The Departed in which Martin Scorsese uses the symbolism of animal clothing to revel Frank’s true ruthlessness and attitude towards humans. Frank gives reason to believe that a person is only as good as what they can do for him.
He is constantly setting people up to take falls for his crimes disregarding their lives family and friends. Frank’s complete disregard for the sanctity of life shows that he is a true animal in which Martin Scorsese portrays perfectly in The Departed. Without the aid of small symbolism within The Departed it would be much harder to distinguish characters true identity and intentions. The true intentions of Collin Sullivan or Detective Sullivan are most prevalent in the instances in which he is engulfed and mesmerized by the shots of the Massachusetts State Building. Collin desires to escape his criminal lifestyle by achieving success as a lawyer. He also desires to be a high-class citizen and to make something of himself unlike his father. Whenever placed in situations of trouble a shot of the Massachusetts State Building is shown it is evident that this is another use of symbolism by director Martin Scorsese.
During the opening scenes of The Departed it is shown through the director’s choice of shot along with meaningful dialogue that Collin Sullivan desires to achieve greatness outside of the criminal realm. While sitting on a park bench Barrigan, Sullivan’s coworker says to Sullivan as he gazes in awe at the sight of the State Building “What are you looking at? Forget it. Your father was a janitor, and his son’s only a cop”. This first scene of the State Building opens a door to view Collin’s internal desire to have a more distinguished lawful existence rather than that of a rat lacking honor and integrity.
As the film progresses it is shown through Collin’s dialogue that he is attending law school showing that he has ambitions to someday become a lawyer or politician leaving his current position which lacks honor behind. While being shown an apartment Collin is once again caught in a trance peering through his soon to be apartment window at the State Building. The realtor then makes the remarks “You move in your upper class by Tuesday”. This once again exemplifies the desires of Collin to become a person of class or someone who is respected and held in high regards by others.
In the concluding scenes after the films climax which included the deaths of Costello, Costigan, and Queenan Sullivan enters his apartment to find Detective Dignam waiting to assassinate him. As Sullivan falls to the apartment floor the ever-present symbolism of the State Building is shown again. While Sullivan’s life ended in a tragic manner it is evident through the symbolism that he desired and could have achieved a lawful existence. If placed in a different environment at a young age Collin could have possibly become a great law enforcement official rather than a criminal.
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