In On the Waterfront, what particular cinematic techniques does director Elia Kazan use in his film to highlight the oppression of those who live by the waterfront?
One of the techniques that Kazan uses to illuminate the oppressive conditions that exist would be employing shots that highlight the individual against the world. For example, the scene in which Terry and his brother are in the cab talking about "important people." Through the use of cinematography, Terry is shown batting both his own failed hopes and dreams as well as his brother's insistence. All the while, the cab is zooming through the streets and almost speeding out of Terry's life. The camera shots and setting of that scene helps to highlight how Terry is up against oppressive conditions that seek to remove his identity.
The glove scene in which Terry picks up Edie's glove and tries to fit it over his big hand is another example of a small moment in which Kazan is able to highlight oppression. Terry is looking for some notion of acceptance and semblance of "fitting in." His hand does not fit the glove, and yet, he is shown seeking to find social assimilation and acceptance. Terry is so oppressed by his own world and seeking to fit into something that is the wrong size seems to be better than where he is right now.
Finally, the shots of the dock themselves and life on the waterfront are cast in a manner to show oppression. Terry sits on the dock and the boats behind him loom large, almost dwarfing him. The skyline of the city is larger and more foreboding with the black and white photography and conveys how individuals like Terry are easily overcome. The use of background in shots helps to illuminate how small the people on the waterfront are, conveying the oppression in their daily consciousness.