On the Waterfront

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On the Waterfront Study Guide Acknowledgements Writer: Susan Bye Education Programmer Australian Centre for the Moving Image Susan’s primary role at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image is to support the teaching of film as text to secondary school students. Initially trained as an English teacher, she studied and taught film and media at La Trobe University before joining ACMI in 2009. Study Guide > On the Waterfront 2 On the Waterfront: difficult choices in an uncertain world The purpose of this guide is to provide an introduction to On the Waterfront (PG, Elia Kazan, 103 mins, USA, 1954), an overview of the commentary and debate that the film has generated and some ideas that will help you form your own interpretation of this challenging film. Studying and Interpreting On the Waterfront On the Waterfront is a film that is as problematic as it is extraordinary. It carries with it an interesting history which has, over the years, affected the way people have responded to the film. On the Waterfront encourages different and conflicting interpretations, with its controversial ending being a particular source of debate. This study guide is intended as an informative resource, providing background information and a number of different ways of thinking about the film. One of the most exciting and satisfying aspects of the film is its capacity to invite and sustain different and multifaceted interpretations. On the Waterfront focuses on life’s uncertainty and confusion, depicting both Father Barry’s dogmatic certainty and Johnny Friendly’s egotistical self-confidence as dangerously blinkered. For some viewers, Father Barry’s vision of collective action and Terry Malloy’s confused struggle to be a better man belong in two different films; however, the contrast between these two ways of looking at, and responding to, life’s challenges
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