Best of the Week: The Conversation

Here, is the only film that I watched this week. Weird, right? Finals have been kicking my ass, so after I got off work, I decided to pick a movie from the shelf to take it home to watch it, and this was it. A completely blind watch, which is my favorite way to experience a movie. And I’m glad I watched it because this is a very interesting and in-depth character study of a surveillance agent who records conversations of high-value targets and sell them back to the government. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and staring Gene Hackman as Harry Caul, The Conversation‘s story revolves around a single conversation that Harry records and takes back to his office to analyze, but when he hears them talking, they seem to fear that they could be killed. So, an interesting question of morality comes into play, about whether or not he should sell these tapes, or warn the people. And this duality he has inside of his head is what drives the film.

As mentioned, this is a character study more than anything, and like this year’s Eye in the Sky, it begs the question of how far is too far when serving your government. Harry is a devout Catholic, and he plays the saxophone which immediately tells us that he has a strong sense of right-and-wrong, as well as being a very artistic and determined. Both of these character traits come into play when he finds out what the couple in the recording are saying, and he’s not sure which side is the right side. Another very interesting dynamic comes into play with Harry, which we see after his interaction with a woman who he visits in one scene. After spending so much time on his own, piecing together and listening to other people’s conversations, he now has this disconnect from reality, and a hard time connecting with the real people in his life. Having a machine between him and anybody else who he “communicates” with has made  his life difficult, and impossible for him to have any positive relationships with anybody else, which we can see as he has trouble making friends throughout the film.

Hackman gives a great performance, directed expertly by Coppola, who lays down such a tangible structure that drives the film. The story is simple, but at the same time carries a surprising amount of weight in it through Harry Caul, who has some sort of mental break in the film following his moral conundrum. One thing that I loved about this film was the pacing; Harry is a man of very few words, so there will be long moments in the film with no words, and we’ll just be watching him, similarly to how he’s silently watching everybody else in his life, and in this way, we get to experience what Harry’s life is like. The film becomes metafictional when looking at it this way, but it seems to become even more meaningful with this angle as well. Since this film was released in 1974, obviously the technology has aged, but it still holds up as an impressive film as far as character and story go, which are really the most important parts of this film. And, the ending is something that I did not see coming in any way and is sure to take you by surprise as well. I’m going to give The Conversation a 7+/10 and a green recommendation. Have you see this film? What did you think? Thanks for reading and share if you liked this, and I’ll see you soon with more movie content!

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