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Martin Scorsese on Gangsters, Death, And Redemption

In an interview on the Fresh Air podcast regarding his film The Irishman, Martin Scorsese commented about growing up in New York City's Little Italy. As a kid he spent a great deal of time surrounded by images of saints and martyrs at St. Patrick's Old Cathedral. He said, “Those images certainly stayed with me. As did the sermons, which often focused on ‘death approaching like a thief in the night.’ You never know when. You never know how.”

Scorsese says the film is also an expression of his "religious beliefs or concerns or obsessions”—particularly in the way it explores morality and what happens to gangsters at the end of their lives. He says, “I realize gangsters are bad. Can a person change? And can a person be redeemed? ... What are we capable of?"

Asked what he believes about death now, Scorsese responds:

I do believe in something beyond the material. I do believe in this machine we're in, this body, wouldn't be the same without the spiritual part of it, whatever that is. And people would say, “Well, that's the brain and synapses.” Yes, but the brain is just a piece of meat, in a sense. There's something that happens that's transcendent. I think it approaches sometimes when we create something and we feel something from what we create that gets us close, I think, to a sense of transcending the material. And if we go there and stay in that space of transcendence, maybe that's where we wind up. Of course, we don't know, because it's probably the same place we were before we were born.

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