Francis Ford Coppola
Upon knowing this great masterpiece given to us by Francis Ford Coppola, I was very much astonished about the way this film was taken. I not only enjoyed every bit of it, but truly admired the way it was taken. This film was more towards a legit classic psychological thriller film which even nowadays no such movies are being made as they are often simple-minded.
“The Conversation (1974)” is a film on the breakthrough of electronic devices, surveillance devices in this case, & showcases the threats & the downsides of technological advancement in mankind. It got its phenomenal success along with The Godfather (1972), but however it didn’t get through the box-office. This film did indeed get 3 nominees unfortunately without any acclaims. They were for the Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay & the Best Sound.
Harry Caul playing the saxophone in the film along with the some jazz background music.
The sound in the film gave the audience a very ‘unpleasant’ feel but in a good way as throughout the film, we could hear some low decibel buzz noises. Also, it gave an uplift to the film as it was related to technology, it had many overlapping tapped sounds, equipment noises, muffled voices and many realistic background noises. Also there were piano and jazz ambiance filled background themes.
Our main hero, Harry Caul acted by Gene Hackman, the expert eavesdropper or simply to be known as the ‘bugger’. This thriller conspiracy film is about the study of the character and how his work resulted in gruesome murders. Therefore, it’s a film about how technology could easily invade stranger’s piracy & Caul is best in the business as he could simply record any conversation between two people anytime anywhere.
The film is said to be a low-budget masterpiece written, produced, released by Francis Ford Coppola. Also one special thing about this movie when it was released was that it was out during the Watergate era & in between Ford’s two Godfather films. The film is mainly circulated on these themes, destruction of privacy, guilt, justified paranoia. Carl, which literally means an embryonic membrane that protects the head of a child at birth, eavesdrops on suspects that would be instructed to him by his ‘director’, slowly then discovers that he becomes the victim of his own technological profession.
The entire film had a very subtle feel but kept the audience at the edge of the seats. The film starts off with a bird’s-eye view of the Union Square, San Francisco. Probably to depict the lunch hour, the street is bustling with people. Amidst them is a mime, acted by Robert Shields, whom everyone is annoyed by. A street band swifts across, & we could hear the drums, and slowly our protagonist is seen and the music fades to the some strange mechanical noises. Harry Caul, is seen wearing a grey coat wherever he goes & has the look of a slightly bald man with a moustache. Audience have to pick out the sounds in the film, each and every ‘noise’ or sound gives a clue or its important to the film. His main target was a couple wandering off in the streets. After eavesdropping them, he replays the footage to hear what they said. One of the famous lines in the film, was when the couple said to themselves, “He’d kill us if he got the chance (?)”
The camera shots in this film were rather simple and more of showing off the wide shots. With only pans and moving left and right and some medium shots. Sophisticated camera shots weren’t that much of a need. The audience are more indulged in to the story and “What’s going to happen next?” Also the murder scenes in the film were shown in a way just to represent the move. The whole scene would not be shown in full, hence, it would be behind some frosted glass, walls etc. This method was then later adapted in many movies like in The Shinning 1980.
The last scene in the film, Harry tore apart his apartment in search for the microphone being placed somewhere after receiving a phone call saying, he was being watched (heard). Many suggest it was placed in his saxophone.
About the author: Ashwin Jerome is a petrol head and eats ‘Unicorns’ for breakfast.