On the Waterfront Directed by Elia Kazan “You can’t win in a difficult situation” – there are penalties to pay Terry felt as I did – ‘ashamed and proud.’
Film Techniques • Directing is invisible (avoids flashy camera work, extreme angles, intense close-ups and overt camera movements). • Often actors appear in two-shot (two people at midrange) or in wider shots to show the arrangements of characters. • Positioning of characters shows power dynamics. • There is suggestive framing – Father Barry hoisted out of the hold with Dugan’s body.
Malloy’s confession to Edie: • Viewer doesn’t hear all of the crucial conversation. • Ship’s whistle is overpowering. • It suggests depth of feeling, frenzy and confused emotions • Feelings are more important than the words • Scenes like this are rare in the movie world.
Film techniques • Use a lot of physical touch – emphasises the crowded environment and affirms intimacy of all the relationships. • Images of the waterfront – all actions – Terry’s confession does not occur in church – outside • Mise-en-scene – the physical environment in which the film takes place is not a set. • Kazan achieves authenticity and grit
Film Techniques • The goons are not actors – they are actual former heavy weight boxers • Longshoremen – many are actual workers • The background sounds on the docks – add to realistic environment • ALL ADD TO HEIGHTEN THE REALITY AND DEPTH OF CHARACTERS’ STRUGGLES AND EMOTIONS
Film Techniques • Filmed during New York’s coldest winters • The steamy hot air seeping up through the sewers or steam being released on the docks creates a misty visual atmosphere – suggests moral ambiguity of every character. • There was only one scene not shot on location – taxi scene • Not much makeup or elaborate costuming used. • The changes in costuming – key indicators of shifting emotion or suggested eroticism.
Acting • Brando – Inarticulate, his movements reveal his struggle – chews gum, shrugs, lags behind, pulls his collar up and stuffs his hands in his pockets – Nervous, evasive gestures. • Henchmen – stand strong in twos and threes. Solid hats and long overcoats. • Henchmen make eye contact – Malloy frequently looks away. • Improvisation – ‘white glove’ scene • Taxi scene – choice of unconventional reactions
Black and White • Deliberate • Placed itself in movie world as different from technicolour of the time. • Realistic, documentary style • Location • Script relies on real life conversations with longshoremen • Gives film social realism • Not a film about escapism – complements dark issues. Daytime is gritty and cruel.
Music • Leonard Bernstein’s score – music of opening scene mirrors the harsh reality of the New York waterfront in winter and the lives of those who reside in the community.
Lighting • Documentary style • Frontal lighting – just projected at performers – the effect is flat, cold, not sympathetic • Darkness represents evil • Grey shadows – overpowering, ominous • Big ships overshadow small ships • Edie – light • Ending – not clear
Motifs • Definition: Recurring structures, contrasts or Literacy devices than can help to develop and inform the texts major themes. • The rooftop as a retreat from the world. • Crucifixion dialogue / images • “D ‘n D” (work machines without identities) • Coats
Motif - Coats • Long coats set aside with short coats • Crime investigators and long coats (ruthless – have a job to do – don’t care about individuals) - air of mystery, can’t be trusted, similar to mob, prepared to sacrifice lives to get results • Father Barry’s coat has to be dirtied before he is trusted • Joey’s jacket is offered as a precious gift - shared hardship- shared friendship - mantle of truth holder is passed on with it – dons the skin of a martyr. • Intimate to wear someone else’s jacket • Terry’s jacket – checkerboard pattern – childlike – he is able to stand out • Change in costume – key indicators of shifting emotion or suggested eroticism. • Longshoremen’s clothes – worn out – vulnerable • Edie’s coat – feminine – has it on for protection in many scenes – shows innocence and discomfort at times • Mob coats – comfortable, don’t have to do physical work, shows wealth, mystery, superiority
Symbols • Definition: Objects, characters, figures or colours used to represent abstract ideas or concepts. • Hudson River – (a border, edge they will never cross). Manhattan – Empire State Building – unattainable • Pigeons – cooped up in cages – fragile. Natural impulse is to fly but are trained not to. (perfectly symbolise Terry Malloy – tough but has an affinity with birds. • Hawks – The corrupt union – the mob
Symbols • Hooks – Hang over shoulders menacingly. Represent the forces that literally hang over them (Friendly’s goons). • Gloves – (appear twice) Indicate a shift in the dynamics of the scene – exposing a new layer of a character’s anxiety, sexuality, vulnerability. 1. Park scene 2. Charley in the taxi scene (suggest he is bound to face something uncomfortable (one naked hand suggests vulnerability)
Symbols • Cyclone fences / Spikes – caged . Terry has allowed Friendly and Charley to take over his life – like he is half alive. Does not have free will • When Terry decides to testify, we see blue skies – he has freedom and is able to fly • Fence at church isolate mob from religion • Edie on one side representing purity • Father Barry on the hill – self-righteous – realises he may have done something wrong. • Daytime scenes – smoke and mist used to create doubt. Suggest claustrophobic world they live in compared to the crispness of the night. • Joey falls through lines of clothing – very public • Non descript street appears as a narrow tunnel with no escape for Terry and Edie – classic film noir – to create a sense of the world closing in.
Nature • Usually uncontrollable –uncivilised • Wedding scene – dancing through vines and ferns – like jungle • People animalistic – Terry rescues her • Gorilla-like gangsters appear • city full of hawks • ‘do it to him before he does it to you’ • Johnny Friendly becomes animalistic in the courtroom • Kazan believes in social control – not advocating violence or resistance to control issues – technique is to divide and conquer. Violence is only possible as a last resort
Murder Scenes • Low and gloomy places • Joey • Dugan • Charley • Terry – tried to kill him low down, near the water’s edge. • Final Scene – Open to the skies
Opening Scene • Sad looking shed amongst the enormous ships and wharves. – makes us think how important these people really are. • Often Terry is seen as separate from the gang – see as he departs from the shed in the opening scene.
Christian Undertones • Father Barry – John the Baptist figure • Terry – Christ figure • Charley and Terry – Cain and Abel • Terry in the church • Terry’s cut hand – stigmata –sacrificed like Jesus • Opening scene – small boat with crucifix – religion is on the side of the workers – in contrast to the power of the ship owners
Terry Molloy • Shunned by dock workers • Hangs out with kids • Lifestyle is modest but at the same time he is cushioned by the mob. • Without Edie’s influence, he most likely would have remained the same. • She stays to solve her brother’s murder and is attracted to someone who is implicated in the death.
The Place of Women in this World • No place • The woman talking to the policeman is shut out – Pop Doyle considers her actions a betrayal. • There is a woman in Friendly’s bar but it is like she doesn’t exist – faceless • MrBig’s wife is oblivious to what’s happening • Classic romantic genre – good woman makes a better man – on the path to redemption • By her connection with Terry, Edie becomes weaker and weaker • When Terry breaks into her apartment – her independence is sucked out of her • Central to civilisation and culture
Father Barry • Edie’s words to Father Barry have struck home • There is a sense that he wants to be a saint – he is bossy and authoritative. • It’s as much about his status as an inspirational leader as he is interested in the plight of the longshoremen • Shots of Father Barry – reinforce his view of the world • High angle shot – Dugan’s death – physically vulnerable but morally powerful • Curious sadism is at play in the final scene – ‘Johnny Friendly’s paying odds that you won’t get up.’
The Ending • Far from triumphant • Ship owner – power has not shifted to longshoremen • Terry – blur – impossible to see the way forward – far from clear • Edie and Father Barry smile
Key Scenes • Edie goes to the chicken coop • The Wedding • The discovery of Charley and Terry’s arrival in the bar.