On the Waterfront: Poverty Essay

848 WordsJul 14, 20134 Pages
Elia Kazan’s On The Waterfront (1954), filmed in Hoboken, New Jersey, is renowned for its portrayal of the harsh and poverty-stricken environment at the docks. Kazan’s strategic use of lighting and costume choices, as well as the loud, triumphant music and camera angles are effectively combined with the harsh winter conditions of New York. In turn, the cinematography of this film allows for the viewers to have a stronger, intimate relationship with the dockworkers and several major characters, revealing how they deal with the poverty that is generated by a corrupt union. As a result, Kazan manages to produce a credible and realistic depiction of the unforgiving nature of the dockworkers’ lives. Throughout the film, we see how Kazan uses different shades of lighting to accentuate the harsh lifestyle the characters are situated in. At the very beginning, viewers are made to feel unwelcome by the bleak, murky streets and alleyways that were filmed in lowlight. Not only does this suggest that the dock adopts an uneasy environment, it also adds a sense of mystery; in which ‘behind’ such darkness lies the corruption of Johnny Friendly’s (the antagonist) union. The dark representation of Hoboken essentially implies that the dockworkers and residents within the town are being ‘overshadowed’ and controlled by a hidden force, living an uneasy lifestyle. Kazan’s decision to make the film black and white also aids in portraying these elements. He allows for Edie’s highly-lit face and hair to clearly juxtapose Terry’s often half-lit face and darker figure (especially in the scene where Joey is pushed off the roof), showcasing Edie’s struggle to reveal Joey’s killer in an outspoken way; “I want to know who killed my brother!” as well as Terry’s issues that are dealt with internally - in the ‘dark.’ In this case, Kazan indicates to the viewer how Terry and Edie are affected by

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