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Author Topic: On The Waterfront  (Read 1425 times)  Share 

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dinosaur93

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On The Waterfront
« on: September 16, 2012, 08:22:16 pm »
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ON THE WATERFRONT

‘The waterfront is tougher…..like it ain’t part of America.’ How true is this statement?

Elia Kazan’s neo-realist film ‘On the Waterfront’ displays the harshness of life and unfair treatments of a monopolized union officials that excluded Hoboken from the rest of America. Unlike America in general, Kazan incorporated a plethora of cinematographic techniques such as lighting, camera angles, mis-en-scene, and symbolism to show the absence of the American dream and how the freedom to express oneself is deprived from the longshoremen. Throughout the years, America has been considered to be a ‘land of the free’ where everyone has the freedom to practice self-opinion. But unlike the waterfront, the longshoremen are not given this luxurious privilege. Their opinions were disregarded by the corrupt union and are instead prosecuted for speaking out the truth. America is also sometimes considered as a place where ‘everybody cares for everybody else.’ But this harmonic atmosphere is replaced by self-preservation on the waterfront as most character fight against each other in order for survival. Kazan presented the film to the audience with no glimpse of ideal livelihood or proper job on the waterfront that often leads to assume that it is not an ideal place to live and definitely ‘ain’t part of America.’

Kazan’s uses cinematography to expose the harshness of life on the waterfront and how isolated it is from the rest of America. Throughout the film, the bleak appearance and distant presence of the statue of liberty and state empire of New York in the background that is dominated by thick smog symbolizes the confinement of the corrupt cycle on the waterfront. The climate of the setting also reinforce how hard survival on the waterfront truly is. The fact that no longshoremen has ever gaze beyond the Hudson River further imply that the isolation and confinement of a corrupt cycle that people have to live by in order for endure in life. Thus, there is an absence of the American dream as most people seek to fight for survival rather than work their way to success. This is made evident by the use of clothing. The monopolized union officials with their luxurious camel coat and fancy vehicle compared to the Terry’s chequered jacket and how people walk to work everyday. When Father Barry learns that the dockworkers of his parish are constantly exploiting to lend loans from the unions for a day’s work, ‘If we don’t borrow, we don’t work’ he expresses his concern and disgust nature by saying that ‘no other union in the country would stand for [such corruption].’ We see a contrast in the role of the union on the waterfront compared to the rest of America. Through the use of cinematography and settings, Kazan displays how difficult the life of waterfront is compared to the rest of America.

USA is commonly referred to as the ‘land of the free’ where anyone can freely express their personal opinions. But unlike the waterfront, people are not given this privileged, and instead is disregarded and prosecuted for speaking the truth. The longshoremen on the waterfront live a life of false loyalty where they are ‘keep quiet’ to ‘live longer’. People like Joey Doyle who speaks of the truth and ‘rats’ the union officials are murdered for ‘spilling’ the truth. On the opening sequence of the film, Joey falling down from a rooftop of his tenement at a low angle shot accompanied Bernstein’s wailing saxophone and wild percussion while reaching a crescendo with his last cry for help portrays a severe punishment for people to speak out the truth and go against the society’s code of ‘DnD’. After his death, we see that even his own father Pop Doyle refuses to ‘answer no questions’ about the tragedy. This scene reinforces the fact that the society’s code DnD Terry himself who inadvertedly played a role in Joey murder said that he “don’t know nothin, ain’t seen nothin, ain’t sayin nothin.” When ask by the crime commission. This shows that people lived by the fear of being prosecuted by the corrupt empire of Johnny Friendly, as a consequence, they are forced to suppressed their conscience despite it can ‘drive you nuts’. Through these scenes that Kazan presents on the waterfront, people’s lives ‘ain’t worth a nickel’ if they spill out the truth. Unlike the rest of America, people have the freedom of speech.

America’s caring and loving community is contrasted to the omnipresent nature of self-preservation that engulfs the life on the waterfront. People living on the waterfront constantly tries to outwin each other for survival. Johnny Friendly kills ‘cheese eaters’ like Joey Doyle and Kayo Dugan to maintain his status and power in society. ‘I didn’t work my out of there for nothing’. Johnny Friendly’s exploitation is due to his love for a ‘lousy buck’ over the love of his ‘fellow man’. His sinister and cowardly act reinforces the philosophy ‘Do it to him before he does it to you’. When Tillio toss the tabs from his hands afar because he was engulf by the longshoremen (who seeks for a day’s work), 250 desperate longshoremen scrambled on the ground fighting for a tab. This is likened to a group of birds being fed where not one stepped back to put others as their primary priority and showed sacrificial behavior. Kazan presented Edie’s ‘fruitcake’ character as the rest of America which was vindicated by her philosophy where ‘everybody should care for everybody else.’ From Johnny’s corruption to Edie’s philosophy, Kazan vividly points out to the audience the severity and omnipresent nature of self-preservation on the waterfront that sets them apart from the caring nature of the rest of America.

People living on the waterfront are not equipped with the same privilege and opportunities compared to the rest of America. They are deprived from the freedom of speech and human rights. Through the use of cinematography, the dimmed and grimy background implied that the rest of America and its luxurious freedom and the ‘American Dream’ is forever absent in the midst of such corruption and turmoil. Through the aid of settings, the Hudson River was utilized as an unbridgeable gulf between Hoboken from the rest of America. Likewise, People on the waterfront who seek to pursue the truth are seen as enemies of society as they choose to ‘rat’ and rebel against Johnny Friendly. People are constantly hold back to tell the truth and suppressed their conscience and personal opinions. Unlike the rest of America, people are given the freedom of speech as everyone is entitled to their own opinion. People living on the waterfront do not also care for one another. ‘Do it to him, before he does it you.’ People like Johnny Friendly who worked his way through hardship chooses to exploits the longshoremen to maintain his power, status and self-preservation. Longshoremen would fight each other for a day’s work regardless of their mutual relationship and status in society. This scene highly contrasts with the how the rest of America operates where everyone lives in harmony and show mutual respect for fellow Americans. Ultimately, Kazan underlines that the livelihood on the waterfront is not ideal and is much rougher than America in general.


dinosaur93

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Re: On The Waterfront
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2012, 08:22:41 pm »
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criticz pls, thank you!