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After his directorial debut with "Who's Knocking on My Door?" and a commissioned work, Scorsese made his

first film about small-time mafiosi in New York with

"Mean Streets"

(1973). Director John Cassavetes advised Scorsese to look at things he knew. As a child in Little Italy, Scorsese constantly observed the lives of the mobsters around him. The main role was played by Harvey Keitel, and an actor who would become important for Scorsese's work appeared in a supporting role for the first time: Robert de Niro.

Photo: Courtesy Everett Collection / ddp images

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What was laid out in “Mean Streets” matured

into a masterpiece in

“Taxi Driver”

(1976). Robert de Niro plays taxi driver Travis Bickle, a Vietnam veteran who increasingly falls victim to his delusions. The film is a bitter testimony to the decline of New York in the 1970s and with it to the hopes that were associated with the social awakening of the previous decade. “Taxi Driver” was critically acclaimed and won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. The film was a commercial success, although it was also met with rejection because of its depictions of violence and its pessimistic attitude.

Photo: Penske Media / Getty Images

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Actors such as Al Pacino and Jeff Bridges were considered for the role of Travis Bickle. Dustin Hoffman turned down the role, saying he thought Scorsese was crazy. Robert de Niro finally got the role, even though he was filming Bernardo Bertolucci's epic "1900" in Rome at the same time. Bickle wants to cleanse himself and the society traumatized by the Vietnam War. He is a figure strongly charged by Catholicism, as Scorsese later wrote.

Photo: Mary Evans / IMAGO

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In addition to feature films, Martin Scorsese also repeatedly made documentaries and concert films.

“The Band”

(1978) became one of his most famous

due to the farewell concert of the rock group of the same name on November 25, 1976 in the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. Originally the concert was only supposed to be recorded on 16mm film, but under Scorsese the project grew into a complex undertaking: seven 35mm cameras filmed the events on stage, where, among others, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Eric Clapton and Ringo Starr played with The Band. The concert and film became an event in the history of rock music in the 1970s, seen as a farewell to an era.

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There was another collaboration between Robert de Niro and Martin Scorsese


“Raging Bull

,” 1980. De Niro's transformation from the wiry boxer Jake LaMotta into the overweight man of later years is legendary. De Niro is said to have eaten 27 kilograms for this. With “Raging Bull,” Scorsese shows another man who is not in control of his emotions and is driven by jealousy and greed. Brilliantly shot on the visual level, the film also shows one of Scorsese's weaknesses: female characters who only serve as cues for the malaise of the male heroes.

Photo: Courtesy Everett Collection / ddp images

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A film that had nothing to do with Mafiosi caused a full-fledged scandal. Scorsese, who had considered becoming a priest as a teenager and was strongly influenced by Catholicism, made the film

“The Last Temptation of Christ”

(1988). In it, Jesus of Nazareth is shown as a doubter who is exposed to human temptations. In one scene we see him coming down from the cross and starting a family. Conservative Catholics went up against it and pushed for a ban on the supposedly blasphemous film - without success.

Photo: Sunset Boulevard / Corbis / Getty Images

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One of Martin Scorsese's most famous films was 1990's "


," an epic about a gangster's rise in the mafia. Scorsese confidants Joe Pesci and Robert de Niro were there again, and Ray Liotta plays the role of his life. Stylistically, “GoodFellas” is characterized by several elegant tracking shots that Scorsese realized with the German Michael Ballhaus, his regular cameraman of the period. Another story of rise and fall, as brutal and depressing as few other Scorsese films. The last third is remarkable, as it shows the hell of meaninglessness into which their aimless actions lead the characters.

Photo: Warner Bros. / ddp images

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“Gangs of New York”

(2002), Leonardo DiCaprio took on the lead role in a Scorsese film for the first time. The New York director goes back to the early history of his hometown and shows the gang wars that underlie the metropolis. In the final image, Scorsese fades into the modern skyscrapers of Manhattan. History may be forgotten, but it haunts the present - as in many of Martin Scorsese's films.

Photo: Miramax / Everett Collection / IMAGO

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Greed, corruption, power - the recurring motifs in Scorsese's films play a particularly prominent role in

"The Wolf of Wall Street"

(2013). DiCaprio plays stockbroker Jordan Belfort, who has one main goal: to become rich and ever richer. He is less of a horrific figure because the methods he uses to achieve this are illegal. But because he doesn't know what to do with his wealth and all the drugs, parties and luxury goods can never cover up his inner emptiness.

Photo: Zuma Press / IMAGO

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Ten years later , “Killers of the Flower Moon,”

the masterpiece that once again summarized all of Martin Scorsese’s obsessions,

followed .

An elegiac late western and thriller about the early history of US capitalism - and a melancholic and razor-sharp look at the greed that has always developed a particularly creative, but also inhumane energy in the USA. The bitter diagnosis that Scorsese makes to his home country does not bode well for the future. But the way he captures them in images that say more than arguments shows Scorsese once again as a master of the art to which he has dedicated his life.

Photo: Everett Collection / IMAGO

On Tuesday, Martin Scorsese will be awarded the Berlinale's Honorary Bear for his life's work. The 81-year-old accepts the honor in person - and is showered with praise in advance.

The Berlinale management duo Mariëtte Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian write about Scorsese's work: »His films have accompanied us as viewers and people, his characters have lived in us and grown within us. His view of history and humanity helped us to understand and question who we are and where we come from.«

A portrait of male lives

Scorsese's work extends far beyond the gangster genre ("GoodFellas", "Casino"), beyond greed and murder. Taken together, his work creates a psychogram of the USA, telling of the struggle for power, influence and money. And it shows an unflattering portrait of primarily male lives with their codes and unwritten rules, from which even those who supposedly have made it suffer.

Martin Scorsese began his career in the late 1960s as one of the most prominent figures of the “New Hollywood” era. A time of crisis in the American film industry, when young artists were pushing for their films to not just provide material for dreaming and escapism, but to engage with the society in which they were made.

A career in pictures.