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The Conversation Single Film Study: Part 2

Darin Caudle | Monday July 06, 2015

Categories: A Level, OCR A Level, Analysis, Film Analysis

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The Conversation Single Film Study: Part 1

Key Sequence Analysis: The opening 3-minute shot

The slow, electronically operated zoom that takes us inexorably into the middle of Union Square gives us an all-seeing God’s eye view of the space. This seemingly omniscient view of the action bestows on the spectator a sense of voyeuristic power. This sense of power is increased by the camera’ ability to move through the space by the technological means of the zoom. From the start, Coppola is equating the controlling of technology with the controlling of people’s lives. This is after all Harry Caul’s business: using his technological expertise to record the secret and potentially damaging conversations of private individuals. Knowing that a long lens with a slow zoom would immediately suggest that someone from far away is watching the crowd, Coppola succinctly introduces one of his key themes: surveillance. Credits roll in the lower right corner of the frame, directing our gaze to the sunlit left hand side. Here, from a distance, we are able to observe a wide variety of people; however, a comically gesticulating mime commands most of our attention. Around the 1:15 mark, squeals of electronic interference disrupt the soundtrack, offering the spectator another clue to the ways in which everything we will soon see and, most importantly, hear during the following conversation is being filtered through Harry’s microphones and tape recorders. For the moment, it is unexplained and will return intermittently throughout the shot. Later we will see that the strange bleeps on the soundtrack are waves of interference from the long-range microphones operated by Harry’s associates, which suggests ‘that the slow zoom of the opening shot is a stand in for the microphone, a tool for surveillance that will factor greatly in the following narrative’ (Emerson, 2009).

Despite technology being front and centre as a motif...


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