On The Waterfront, By Elia Kazan

952 words - 4 pages

For a near-championship boxer to fall from the limelight after a defeat is fairly common, but to lose due to his own brother betting against him is unheard of. Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront portrays the role of this former fighter living his life as a bum under a local mob boss. This movie stands out from how movies are portrayed today. It didn’t have a lot of fast chase scenes, immense battles, or over-the-top special effects. This movie focused on its characters, by portraying their reactions to the cumbersome niche they play on the dockyard. It was driven by a series of intertwined conflicts, and a strong mix of character development and storytelling, and made for a phenomenal piece of art.
Conflict is what viewers watch movies for, and a well-developed series of conflicts all wrapped up into a single film is a recipe for success. Kazan’s portrayal of Terry Malone, the former boxer who lost his fame due to a betting operation, shows many sides of one’s life when controlled by oppressors. His primary conflicts include his inner turmoil over the death of a fellow dockworker, the constant hammering of grief in the form of Joey’s sister Edie, and the ever vigilant preaching of Father Berry. At the start of the film, Terry is asked to send Joey Doyle, a fellow dockworker, up to his rooftop to have a talk with some mobsters. Unbeknownst to Terry, Joey is killed and the blame for the crime goes to no one. Terry is burdened with the knowledge that he evoked the death of Joey Doyle, and throughout the film is plagued with reminders of his death. He is given Joey’s coat in memory of him, and helps the viewer sympathize with the downtrodden protagonist. Edie Doyle is simply a young woman hoping to find the man responsible for her brother’s death. Terry comforts her throughout the movie, but her innocent chattering about her sibling’s death is excruciating for the ex-brawler. She is portrayed as moral innocence, beckoning to Terry to tell the truth and bring justice to those that slew her brother. She helps the audience relate to an outsider looking in on a society that has accepted their role as slaves to those with greater power. Father Barry, a minister who preaches against the crimes of the mob, pushes Terry along the path to truth. He urges him to speak out against his oppressors for the good of the entire dock. He brings a strong sense of justice and righteous action to a community otherwise broken and accepting of their roles as thralls. The conflicts fueling this story are also provided by a livid cast of characters and a dark story to be told.
Development of both characters and story can be hard to draw a fine line on, but On the Waterfront walks that line like an acrobat. There was a strong...

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