Books and Movies Reviews

Realism in On the Waterfront

Though the style of realism is not big, flashy, or constantly moving, it does have a sort of richness about it that, director, Elia Kazan achieves so accurately in his 1954 classic, "On the Waterfront." Through his use of subtle photography, we, as an audience, are able to break away from the fact that we are watching a movie, and focus on the interaction and emotion of the characters. It is as if we are standing in the very room with the characters, observing the scene. Almost nothing is shown that we wouldn't be able to see ourselves. In fact, virtually the only obscure angle in the entire film was an oblique angle near the end when we are shown the severity of Terry's injuries through his eyes as he attempts to walk up the dock. In any formalistic film, this angle and other's like it would have been used much more freely.
Similar to the photography, the editing in "On the Waterfront" is miniscule. Most of the editing techniques are match cuts; flowing steadily through the scenes with only a few cuts to necessary characters or places. This minimalism becomes quite evident in the scene where Terry and Edie nearly get hit by the truck. In a formalistic film, the director might have chosen to show the frantic chaos of a moment by inserting multiple jump cuts, cutaway's and cut-in's. An example of this would be the shower scene in Hitchcock's horror classic, "Psycho," because he jumps in, out and away throughout those few moments of the murder and the audience is able to see exactly what Marion Crane sees. On the contrary, in a realistic film, such as "On the Waterfront," we must rely on the actors' reaction and expression in order to grasp the mood or feeling. When Terry turns around and sees that truck headed for himself and Edie, we know by that frozen look of horror, that this is a bad situation.
Because "On the Waterfront" is a realistic fi…

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