In 1864, Fyodor Dostoevsky writes Notes from Underground, an unusual novel with first-person narration, which describes the life of a lonely man in Saint Petersburg. A century later, in 1976, Martin Scorsese films Taxi Driver, having a lonely man in New York as its hero. Both works generate the same social issues, concerning the relation between man and his environment. The description of St. Petersburg by Fyodor Dostoevsky and the depiction of New York by Martin Scorsese are being researched and studied in parallel, as well as the portraitsof the metropolises they create.
The relation between Notes from Underground and Taxi Driver has been mentioned in literary and cinematic articles, without, however, analysing the relation of the space succession, where each work takes place. The present study reports and compares the spaces presented in each work and categorises them according to the general term of familiarity. The first-person narration in Notes from Underground and the subjective shooting of Taxi Driver presents the space from the protagonist’s point of view. Thus, the personal space acquires theoretical dimensions and transforms from a narrow and frowsty space into a mental space, a refuge and a sanctuary. The unfamiliar space, where the story unfolds, can be divided into narrow spaces or “threshold” and open spaces or “square”. According to Mikhail Bakhtin’s critique on Dostoevsky’s work, the “threshold” is the area where the crisis escalates and the “square” is the area where the crisis wreaks. The study proves the validity of this theory on Taxi Driver.
Contact with the outside world is conducted through glass surfaces in Taxi Driver and through a crack in the wall in Notes from Underground. These elements, besides their symbolic nature for distorting reality, function as a separative between the confessant (hero) and the confessor (reader/viewer).
In both works, the city is being presented as hell, through images, phrases and references and the entrance of the main characters in murky places symbolises their decent to hell. The city, just like the personal space, which is the room and the taxi, defines the hero, who identifies with the space he lives in. Hero and space are inextricable and interdependent elements.
Comparing the two works, it is being concluded that the heroes, the spaces and their cities coincide and the fact that they were created in different historical times and locations offers importantclues for the further understanding of today’s society.