Film Analysis Of The Cult Classic “On The Waterfront”

I am going to write about the film “On The Waterfront” It is written by Budd Schulberg and directed by Karl Malden. The film is set in the city of Hoboken, with New York City across the bay and follows the story of Terry Malloy, played by Marlon Brando, who is a young dock worker who, following the death of his brother, tries to break the hold of waterfront gang boss. Rod Steiger is Terry’s elder brother and is torn between loyalty to union and love of his family.

Lee J Cobb is the powerful union boss, while Eva Marie Saint is the girl who Brando falls in love with.The film is set in black and white; the director’s notes suggest the skyline was always grey and dark setting the mood of the film perfectly. The opening scene starts with quite aggressive drums playing in the background, which instantly brings you into the action. Terry is being used as part of a plan to lure Joey up onto the roof so the gang could kill him.

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Terry goes to meet some other gang members and they cruelly make a joke about the boy pushed off a building, because he threatened to talk to the crime commission, breaking the code of D n’ D (Deaf and dumb- This basically means that you do not “grass” no matter what. “Joey was a canary. Maybe he could sing but he couldn’t fly. “Throughout the film there are a few of references to the code of silence, “D n’ D”, or “Deaf and Dumb.

” This means that no matter how bad the circumstances are, a person never “grasses. ” As Terry hears this he is a little shocked (although he physically doesn’t show it) and says “I thought maybe you were gonna rough him up a little, I didn’t think you were gonna kill him. ” This shows Terry to be a little nai??ve but not a completely bad person.When the police try to question the residents of the building for who was responsible they got no response even though everyone knew who it was but they were too scared too speak out because the same would happen to them.

This shows, at the start, the mob had a lot of power over the people and was definitely feared. This film does follow most of the rules of ‘Films as fairy tales’, Terry is obviously the hero. Edie Doyle is the love interest or princess and Johnny Friendly is the villain.Through the middle of the film several themes are built including family, loyalty, love, power, poverty, justice, and betrayal.

. One of the first turning points of the film is when Terry meets Edie (Joey’s sister. ) She is the girl who Terry falls in love with and she puts more and more pressure on Terry to help her find out who killed her brother, but Terry has to refuse and tries to convince her to stop digging, love is a very important part of film as fairy tales and especially in this film as it is Terry’s love for Edie and Charlie that make him turn against Johnny Friendly.Terry’s character as a strong-silent type is built very well by Brando, using body language and facial expressions as a subtle but effective way to show Terry’s emotions (this type of acting is called method acting or Stanislavski), especially in the scenes with Edie, where they are heavily flirting.

He uses a lot of eye contact, looking from under his brow so he doesn’t appear overbearing or intimidating even though he is quite larger than Edie. In one scene Edie drops her glove and Brando picks it up but instead of giving it to her straight away, he starts to play with it and even puts it on at one point.Terry’s interest in Edie is obvious but at the time the film It would not have been possible to show this graphically, so these scenes of flirting between the two characters is an effective way of showing the love develop between the two characters. The role of the gang leader, Johnny Friendly, is also very important.

He also uses body language but in a different way to Terry. He purposely over exaggerates his body actions to show his prominence and his power. During the middle of the film Terry also builds relationships with Johnny’s enemies like Father Barry, the dockland priest who can’t understand why people don’t stand up to the mob.Father Barry believes that the truth will always set a person free.

He says, There’s one thing we’ve got in this country and that’s ways of fightin’ back. Gettin’ facts to the public. Testifying for what you know is right and what you know is wrong. What’s rattin’ to them is telling the truth for you.

Can’t you see that? Can’t you see that? ” He tries to convince people to give evidence against them in a special meeting which is violently interrupted by the mob, once again intimidating people into keeping quiet.In the scene were the police investigator is talking to Terry on the roof he starts to talk to Terry about a boxing fight which he lost, knowing that Terry would want to tell his side of the story. Terry tells him that he ‘took a dive’ for Johnny friendly as he was betting on the other fighter. At first they are talking at some distance and gradually get closer but remained separated by a wire cage which symbolizes the barrier between Terry, who represents the mob and follows D n’ D, and the investigator, who represents the law.

The emotion in Terry’s body language as he reinacts the fight is high and he is still bitter about being forced into throwing the fight and it seemed that the investigator had opened a deep wound. One of the most famous scenes in the play is where Terry and Charlie are in a Taxi together. Johnny has given Charlie an ultimatum, either make sure Terry doesn’t ‘grass’ or else. This scene was obviously shot in a studio with people rocking the taxi to show its movement.

Even though the scene is not very realistic it is still effective as the background is not important to the action.A realistic background could have been distracting and take away from the scene, but with this everything is focused on the two brothers. The differences between the brothers are also shown in this scene as the tension grows. Charlie grows more and more anxious while Terry remains as cool as ever.

The tension continues to grow as the brothers argue about what Terry should do up to the point where Charlie pulls a gun out on Terry. Terry is not frightened when this happens and instantly know Charlie wont shoot him. His reaction is more one of confusion and anger.He is angry at Charlie for telling what to do all the time and we learn that it was Charlie who came into Terry’s dressing him telling him to throw the fight.

The background music is sad which adds to the atmosphere and the camera switches from close ups on the brothers faces as they speak so the viewer can see the full emotions of the brothers. He tells Charlie that he should have looked after him and then says the most famous line in the film “I could have been a contender, instead of a bum. ” Charlie looks at him desperately but realizes he wont change his mind and hands him the gun and tells him he will need it.Another dramatic scene is where Terry finds his brother’s body hung up on the wall.

It is obviously the work of the mob and they even hang him by one of the hooks they use in the docks. This is the real turning point of the film and Terry loses his cool image and really shows his emotions, which is pure anger, and does the only thing he knows how to do and goes straight for Johnny’s bar to take revenge but he is not there. The priest follows him into the bar and convinces him that the only real way to take revenge would be to give evidence in court against Johnny. When he does this Johnny tells him “He has dug his own grave.

The police have to escort Terry home incase he is attacked. None of his friends will speak to him and he is isolated but Terry does not regret what he has done and goes down to the dock to “get his rights. ” However he is not picked for work and so goes after Johnny, they argue and Terry says “You’re a cheap, lousy, dirty stinkin’ mug. And I’m glad what I’ve done to you.

” Which shows that Terry has completely changed his opinion about ‘grassing’ and now believes that it is right to tell the truth about things that are wrong. This leads to a fight in which Terry gets the upper hand, which is believable as he is younger and an ex-boxer.As Terry starts to win the rest of the mob jump in and ‘rush’ Terry. The violence not very realistic compared with films made recently, punches obviously do not connect and the sound effects are slightly exaggerated.

The camera cuts to and from the action and the rest of the dock workers watching, this adds to the tension as you cannot tell exactly what’s going on but you know Terry is losing. There is a tense moment as the action stops and Johnny and the mob come around the corner and Terry is lying face down in the water, you almost think that Terry is dead but since this is a fairy tale film there is no way the hero could be killed.Father Barry and Edie rush to Terry’s aid and help him back on his feet but Terry tries to make the walk back up to the dock entrance by himself, stumbling as he goes the background music starts to grow. Meanwhile Johnny is telling everyone to get back to work but no one is listing to him, after watching Terry in court and now fighting Johnny they realize that there is no reason to fear Johnny if they all stand up to him.

Although the ending seems a bit unrealistic, the way everyone just stares as they fight and when he is walking, it is still effective and conveys the message of the film very well. In conclusion the ending fits the style of the film, it was expected for the hero to win but it is the way in which he does it is what makes the film great. It is easy to see why at the time the film won eight academy awards, if the film was released now, it probably wouldn’t have won any.This sort of story has been used many times over the years and with hardly any sex or violence it would be seen as too unrealistic by today’s standards, but considering that is was made in 1954 it is a very good film, this is largely due to Brando’s portrayal of the hero Terry Malone who made it possible for honest men to work at the docks, with job security and peace of mind.

Although there are obvious themes to this film, a powerful one that is not so obvious is the one of keeping secrets. As Terry Malloy said, “Conscience. That stuff can drive you nuts. “

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Film Analysis Of The Cult Classic “On The Waterfront”. (2017, Dec 26). Retrieved from