Naomi Edwards ~ On the Waterfront

Naomi Edwards

Professor Kahan

December 5, 2012

On the Waterfront


The film “On the Waterfront” is considered to be one of the classic American films of the twentieth century.  Elia Kazan used various artistic choices, such as camera angle, music, lighting and blocking to create the mise en scène of the film.  All of his directorial decisions gave the camera a point of view on the characters, and created an underlying symbolism, which promotes the plot.

The camera angle in the film played a large role in demonstrating the characters’ growth.  When the movie first starts we see Terry on the street yelling up at Joey to come up to the roof.  In this scene we see a low angle shot looking up at Joey in the window, and a high angle shot looking down on Terry.  This symbolically establishes Joey’s high moral character in comparison to Terry.  This idea of the camera looking up to characters that are not afraid to stand up to Johnny, and looking down on those who are scared into submission is continued throughout the film. There are low angle shots looking up at Edie and the priest and high angle shots looking down on the men when they are on the docks waiting for work.  This point of view of the camera also reinforces Terry’s growth as a character.  For most of the film he is seen in high angle shots, or straight on, but when he finally decides to stand up to the mob, after finding Charlie’s body, we see the first low angle shot looking up at him.  He has decided to take a stand, and the camera angle changes to show this new perspective.  The low angle shot on Terry, as he walks down the alley with a gun in this hand demonstrates that he is not going to sit deaf and dumb like he has thus far.

In addition to the camera angle, the blocking also played a large role in demonstrating the emotional and moral state of the characters. Whenever we see Terry with the mob, he is positioned so that his face is obstructed.  There are multiple times when we can only see his back as the other characters move around him.  This character position represents Terry’s shame in being involved in the mob.  In addition to representing Terry’s feelings, blocking plays a role in demonstrating the relationship between Edie and Terry.  When Edie and Terry start to have feelings for each other, there is a barrier between them because Edie is unaware that Terry played a role in Joey’s murder.  This is demonstrated with the physical barrier of the gate on the pigeon coop.  Edie stands on one side of the fence while Terry stands on the other side.  After Terry tells her the truth and has stood up to Johnny the barrier is removed. Edie goes to Terry on the roof after the trial and runs around the gate. The obstacle is removed when he helps her avenge Joey’s death.

Along with the symbolic positions of the characters, Kazan used animals and liquor as predominant symbols in this film. The idea of a stool pigeon, someone who rats on someone else is at the foreground of this film.  Joey was going to testify in court against the mob, and Terry uses the homing pigeon to lure him up to the roof.  After Joey dies and Terry realizes what he has done, one of the mob members says, “He (Joey) could sing, but he couldn’t fly.” Later in the film, after Terry testifies in court, he returns to find all of the birds in Joey’s coup killed.  Tommy, who has looked up to him the entire film throws one of the dead birds at Terry, screaming, “A pigeon for a pigeon.” Liquor, particularly Irish whiskey is another symbol in this film.  The priest is “just a sack of potatoes,” and he is the one who convinces Kayo Dugan to go up against Johnny and the mob.  Dugan is then killed when the mob drops a case of Irish whisky on him, which symbolically represents that it was Father Barry, the Irish potato, who got him killed by making him stand up to the mob.

Music is another method, which Kazan used to promote the story.  This is particularly evident in the classic scene where Terry and Charlie are talking in the car.  Both Charlie and Terry are experiencing an internal conflict at this point in the film. During this scene music starts to play while the two brothers reminisce about old times and what could have been.  It is the first honest moment between them in the film and this same music returns when Terry finds Charlie in the alley.  Kazan used the music in these two scenes to create an emotional connection between his characters and his audience.  Even though this music created a powerful emotional reaction when explaining the relationship between these two brothers, the absence of music in the scene leading up to Dugan’s death added to the suspense of the scene.

In addition to the music in the car scene between Charlie and Terry, the dialogue and acting impacts the audience’s point of view.  Charlie calls Terry, “slugger” and leans in to talk to him.  Terry avoids making eye contact with Charlie and is soft spoken in comparison to other scenes where he is very confident. When Terry yells, “I don’t know,” and Charlie begs Terry to take the job, you can see that they are both confused and scared.  Throughout the entire film these men have been very rough, but we can see that they really are just little boys who long for the days when things were simpler.

Along with the deep symbolism throughout this film, Kazan made sure to stay true to the setting of his story.  All of the costumes were very plain and you could tell that these people were suffering.  This highlighted the cruelty of the mob in taking advantage of these hard workingmen. When we see Edie in the apartment with her father, it is cramped.  The window curtains framing the scene demonstrate the smallness of the apartment.  By looking through one small window it is possible to see the entire apartment. The dialogue of the scene, particularly towards the end is indicative of the time and place. When Terry goes down to the dock and yells at Johnny, he says that all of Johnny’s guts are in his “wallet and trigger finger” and that he realizes that he has been “rattin’ on himself for years” by being involved in shady business. His words aren’t polished and staged, but they have the ability to resonate with the men on the docks because he is one of them.  Unlike the priest, with his sermons, Terry is an average guy, which is what makes him the hero of this tale.

Elia Kazan used multiple tactics to tell the story of “On the Waterfront.” His choice of camera angle, soundtrack, blocking, dialogue, setting and symbolism work together to show the growth of Terry Malloy as he becomes a true contender, on the side of good.  Kazan’s unique artistic vision and style make this film a true American classic.


November 28th, 2012

On Wednesday in class, Professor Diaz came and discussed different film techniques and how they were used in the movie “Manhattan”.  The idea of diegetic and non-diegetic sound was very interesting to me because very often I find myself paying close attention to the soundtrack of a film that I am watching.  In the movie “Remember the Titans” the final football game has an orchestral score by Trevor Rabin which I fell in love with after seeing the film.  I found it interesting how film had to completely change to accommodate the introduction of sound to moving picture.  This issue was directly addressed in the musical “Singing in the Rain” staring Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds.  My two favorite parts of this film deal with the issues that arose as the film industry moved away from silent films.  The first scene, was when they show the film for the first time.  They quickly realized that actors who are accustomed to working in Silent films may not be able to make the transition to movies with sound. Singing in the Rain.  My second favorite scene in this musical is at the end when they reveal that Lina Lamont isn’t really singing her songs, and that Kathy is the true star of the film. Sining in the Rain.  When I first saw this movie I didn’t understand that the problems which they were dealing with, were very common issues which came with advances in film.  It was interesting to see the technical side of the movies which I know and love.  I think that it is interesting how directors can use little things like the angle of the camera to control the emotion which the audience feels.

~ The Catcher in the Rye~11/26/12~

On Monday in class we reviewed The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.  I read this book in Freshman year of High School and I wasn’t impressed.  At that time in my life I don’t feel that I was emotionally mature enough to fully understand the message of the novel.  Four years later I was excited to revisit this novel and examine it through my eighteen year old perspective.  After rereading this book, I can officially say that The Catcher in the Rye is one of my favorite novels.  Even though my life isn’t remotely close to Holden’s, with the exception of us both living in New York, I can relate to his questions and fears about life.  When I first read The Catcher in the Rye I was fourteen years old, and in many ways I was still a child, oblivious to the suffering around me.  Now I am eighteen years old and recently I’ve been yearning for my childhood blissful ignorance.  All of a sudden I find myself in Holden’s shoes, feeling like, I’m “…disappearing every time [I cross] a road.” (Chapter 1 page 5).

It may be because I’ve been conditioned to analyze everything, particularly pieces of literature, but I had a really fun time finding all of the extended metaphors, and symbolic messages hidden throughout the novel, which I had missed when I first read it.  My favorite metaphor that I found was about the streets.  Throughout the entire book Holden keeps talking about streets and milestones and growing up.  The street, is symbolic of his entrance to adulthood.  Every time he crosses a “road” he loses some of his childhood innocence, and that scares him more than anything. When he talks about the Museum of Natural History he says that, “The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right were it was. Nobody’d move….Nobody’d be different.  The only thing that would be different would be you.” (Chapter 16 Page 121).  The road image returns sporadically  throughout the novel, but become very prominent in the final chapters of the novel.  This is evident when Holden says, “Then I started doing something else. Every time I’d get to the end of a block I’d make believe I was talking to my brother Allie.  I’d say to him, “Allie, don’t let me disappear…Please, Allie.” And then when I ‘d reach the other side of the street without disappearing, I’d thank him. Then it would start all over again as soon as I got to the next corner.” (Chapter 25 Page 198). Holden is afraid to grow up, he’s afraid to become an adult, to know too much, to lose all of his innocence.  Beyond all of these fears, Holden is most afraid that he has already passed the point of no return, and that he has lost all of his innocence.

Another part of this book which really resonated with me this time was Holden’s relationship with Phoebe. The name Phoebe, comes from the Greek name Phoibe which means “bright and pure”, and that is exactly what she represents for Holden.  Everything in his life is dark and ominous, his outlook on life has become very jaded and depressing, but Phoebe looks at life in a pure way.  I think that it is beautiful that, it is the innocent character, the pure one, who helps Holden finally cross the street at the end of the novel.  Phoebe is fearless, “…she ran right the hell across the street, without even looking to see if there were any cars coming.” (Chapter 25 Page 208), and the interesting thing about this, is that even after Phoebe fearlessly runs across the street, Holden still holds back.  He stays on his side of the street and the two of them walk in parallel paths on opposite sides of the street.  Finally though he crosses the street with her when they are leaving the zoo, and he accepts the reality of life and time and growing up while watching Phoebe ride the carousel.  The most heart wrenching line of book for me was when Phoebe gets off of the carousel, kisses Holden and then says, “It’s raining.  It’s starting to rain.” and Holden responds, “I know.”  He accepts it, and for the first time in the novel, he’s truly happy.

So even though I’m no Holden Caulfield, I can relate to his journey…but I may still need some help welcoming the rain.


~Manhattan~ 11/21/12~

Wednesday in class we watched the Woody Allan film “Manhattan” from 1979.  The first thing which struck me about this film was that even though it was made in 1979, it was shot in Black and White.  At first I didn’t understand why Woody Allan chose to film in black and white, but I feel that he made this directorial decision to remove the distraction of color.  There were multiple times in the movie when things were purposefully hidden from the audience, such as the character’s faces.  This allowed the audience to focus on the dialogue without the distraction of color and facial expressions.  This idea of removing distractions was also evident in the all instrumental soundtrack to the movie.  At times when the dialogue and movement was very important, songs with words might be a distraction for the audience.  I know that sometimes when I’m watching a movie with a really great soundtrack I sing along with the songs instead of focusing on the dialogue which is occurring over it.

I also found the camera angle to be different than most films that I have seen.  At times it felt as though the camera was trying to capture all of the characters in the scene like in traditional films, but at other times it felt as though the camera was a character in the film.  During the scenes where they are sitting in the restaurant there were times when the camera angle appeared to be craning over someone’s shoulder to get the shot.  I also found it interesting that the actors were upstaged a lot.  In plays extras are usually told to walk and move upstage of the scene, but there were times in this movie, such as the scene in the department store when the extras kept walking in front of the actors and obstructing the vision.



~Final Poetry Recitals~ 11/19/12~

Monday in class we finished the final poetry recitals.  One of my favorite poems that I heard was Swathi’s second poem “Broadway” by Sara Teasdale. I appreciate how this poem perfectly captures the magical experience of attending a broadway show. She talks about the stars and the charms of the night, and it makes me remember all of the  broadway shows that I have gone to and the excitement that I felt.  However, the thing that strikes me most about this poem is that it doesn’t only have to be about going to a broadway show.  The idea that magic is fleeting and that you should enjoy it while you can can be applied to any number of experiences.  When Teasdale writes “We live a little ere the charm is spent” I am reminded of Robert Frost’s poem, “Nothing Gold can Stay”.  In this poem Frost talks about how fleeting life is, and how nothing lasts forever (Which reminds me of a cute saying I saw on Facebook the other day.  It said, “Lets be nothing, I hear it lasts forever.” but I digress). Live in the moment, and fully immerse yourself in the magic of life, because there is so little magic in the world.  I think it’s a good motto.  Personally I think we all care too much, and waste too much time getting upset over stupid things…myself included.  However I think that after hearing this poem I’ll try to live a little more…”ere the charm is spent”.

In addition to “Broadway”, I enjoyed Corinna’s poem, the third part of “In the Village” by Derek Walcott.  The speaker in this poem talks about this woman that he is in love with.  Without her he can’t write poetry without her and he feels as though the music of his life is just outside his window, but he can’t reach it.  I liked this poem because it reminded me of the song “Agony” from Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Into the Woods”.  In this song the princes sing about the women that elude them.  One of the lines of the song is “…Agony, Misery, Woe, Though it’s different for each, Always ten feet behind, always ten feet below, and she’s just out of reach…”


~Poetry Readings~ 11/14/12~

On Wednesday in seminar we continued our poetry presentations.  My favorite poem which was recited was Brendon’s poem “Check Mate” by Lucio Mariani.  The poem spoke about a man’s life and death and his hopes for the future. The speaker of this poem was deceased, and once this fact became clear the poem acquired a very dark and interesting perspective.  This poem struck me because it brought me back to September 11, 2001 and made me think about the lives of all of the people lost on that day, including my cousin firefighter John A. Santore.  What if these people could speak? What would they say?  What would they think about how their loved ones have moved on…or in some cases, haven’t? This particular speaker was thinking about his father who is most likely all alone now that his son has passed away, and his mother who was never part of his life.  He hopes that now that he is dead, people will remember him and his life.  This poem is a unique tribute to the victims of September 11th, because it is told from the point of view of one of the deceased victims.  I have read books where the story is told from the dead, but I had never read a poem where the speaker was deceased, and I appreciate this poem for its unique voice.

In addition to “Check Mate” I enjoyed focusing on the rhythm of poetry.  I enjoyed listening to Rob recite his poem by Langston Hughes with piano accompaniment.  It felt as if the poem came with it’s own soundtrack, and it was easy to fall into the rhythm of the words when it was presented in this format.


~Architecture 11/12/12~Naomi~

Monday in Seminar, Professor Powers come to our class to discuss architecture, and the various ways in which it has reflected the values of society.  I found it interesting that he described architecture as trying to provide a context for the life that will go on in and around the structure.  I can relate this lecture to my high school.  I went to Curtis High School which is the oldest public high school on Staten Island.  Built in 1904, the building was constructed in a Neo Gothic style with gargoyles and pointed arcs throughout the structure.  In my Theory of Knowledge course in high school we took tours of the building and examined the various architectural features which were present and what their purpose was when the building was first constructed. An example of this would be the blank scrolls which the gargoyles hold on the top of the building.  These slates were said to represent the blank minds which students will fill with the knowledge they acquire at school.  Another interesting feature of my high school is the double staircases.  Apparently in 1904 boys and girls were not allowed to walk in the same staircases, so the builders constructed a male and female staircase.  In recent years these wrapping staircases serve a different purpose.  Due to overpopulation, these staircases help ease the traffic between classes.

I enjoyed going to a high school with so much history in its architecture.  My grandparents attended Curtis in the 1940s and I truly felt as if I was walking through history when I walked the halls of my alma mater.  When I made the decision to attend CSI I mourned the arched passageways and stone engravings which I had become accustomed to during my  high school years.  Nevertheless, Monday’s seminar class allowed me to realize the beauty in the architecture of CSI.

I look forward to studying more architecture and observing the various features present in the buildings of NYC.



~Poetry Readings Part 2 ~11/7/12~

On Wednesday in seminar we continued to recite our poetry selections.  I was able to perform my three poems by Dorothy Parker.  My three poems were Resumè, Observation and Love Song.  I enjoyed performing my poems and playing the sarcastic and snarky side of Parker’s poems.  She was a strong woman who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind during a time period when women were expected to be seen and not heard.  I admire her voice and her bravery to overcome the expectations of her society, as well as the traumas of her personal life.  I feel that the three poems, which I recited in class are a perfect representation of Parker’s life and work, and I’m happy that I had the opportunity to present her work.

In addition to performing my three Dorothy Parker poems, I enjoyed hearing my classmates perform their poems.  Christian and Shumaila’s poems were interesting because they were   snapshots of life.  They described people’s experiences while commuting through a city and all of the different people that they encountered.  This past saturday I took the bus for the first time in a few months and I enjoyed people watching during my trip.  The little old lady who sat across from me, the middle age man with a bag of groceries from the Met supermarket, the sisters who were fighting over who got to sit down.  Everyone had their own story and own destination.  With these poems in mind, I was able to pay more attention to the various faces in front of me and see the beauty in this perfunctory task.


~Presenting Poetry Part 1~ 11/5/12

Monday in seminar we began presenting our poems.  I’ve read and analyzed many poems  in the past for academic and recreational reasons, but I have never been asked to recite poems, or for that matter, seen poetry performed.  I enjoyed the ways my classmates interpreted their poems and presented them to the class, whether is was a poem about the threat of nuclear fallout, a lively interpretation of a city street, or a mournful tale of death and sorrow.  Each recital was unique and touching, I could really feel the weight of the words as my classmates performed them.

The first book of poetry that I remember really enjoying was in 5th grade and it was called Hailstones and Halibut Bonesby Mary O’Neil.  In this book of poems the poet, Mary O’Neil describes the colors of the rainbow with beautiful descriptive language.  Each poem in this book starts with the question, “What is?”. “What is red? Red is a sunset Blazy and bright. Red is a feeling brave With all your might Red is a sunburn Spot on your nose, sometimes red Is a red, red, rose…”  When I was ten this was the best thing since sliced bread.  I continued to enjoy poetry well into my intermediate school years (at which point the majority of poetry which I listened and read came in the form of song lyrics).  In fifth grade I also had the pleasure of writing my own poetry anthology.  Within this collection I wrote a poem entitled Crescent Moon.

Crescent Moon

Like a slide in the sky you shine from on high

In front of the tar, you shine from afar

And are replaced by the sun

After the crickets have sung

My Crescent Moon

My Crescent Moon

It’s not going to win any awards anytime soon, but I was proud of it.

What appeals to me about poetry is that it isn’t obvious.  Poets take great care in crafting each word, choosing their diction and syntax to portray their message.  In order to really get to the heart of a poem you have to dig and sort through all of the layers that the poet has developed.  As a lover of theater, poetry also appeals to me because it is an art form which is best performed instead of read.

I look forward to hearing the rest of the poems presented in class.