The Conversation – dir.Francis Ford Coppola, 1974

This film is about a conversation. The conversation takes place in a busy San Francisco square, between two people that we never meet, never know, as unfamiliar as two strangers that pass us for a moment and then disappear back into the world.  The words exchanged between the couple is tapped by Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) and relayed repetitively back to us throughout, each time the conversation supposedly becomes a little clearer and more loaded, we must be listening to future victims of something, but what?  Harry has some blood on his hands, in that some tapes he made some time ago resulted in a family massacre.  That’s quite some load to carry around with you. He repents, he prays, he seeks absolution.  What we have here is a man of faith, in a god-forsaken career.  So consumed is he by the reality of human nature, with all the bloody murder, all the bad parts of it, that he lives in paranoid asceticism.  His flat is empty and stark, his relationships are fleeting, meaningless.  Harry snaps at a practical joke, which has him temporarily bugged.  The tapes of the conversation play on, the words flood the room, they become heavy, intrusive even, seemingly plastering themselves onto the lips of whomsoever is around.  The words, strangely dismembered from the mouths from which they came, become something unforgivably sinister for Harry, who seeks to save the couple so inevitably in danger.   For a film so dependent on words, it is in the silence that the drama truly explodes.  The spooky cheap hotel room, silent and proper, until the toilet seat gushes out blood.  This is the evidence stuffed, repressed, until the horrible unbearable truth comes flooding out in this fantastical way.  It is biblical even, the blood red water gushing out like the parting of the seas. Harry is Moses, clutching his case folder as though it were the two tablets, only has he delivered the wrong people? The quiet silent disappointed look, Harry gives the young woman he thought dead, that he had hoped to save, when all along had it been the wrong way round?

★★★★★

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