For this week’s assignment, I watched The Conversation, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Gene Hackman. This American Independent Film was quite a bit different than the Classical Hollywood Narrative, but it did also have a few of the characteristics.
One of the characteristics of the Classical Hollywood Narrative that this film followed was the focus on one main character, Harry Caul, throughout the film. Harry is a surveillance expert who is hired by a client to record a conversation between a man and a woman. As the story progresses, the focus remains on Harry and his emotional journey with the decision of whether he should turn over the tapes he recorded, which could jeopardize the man and woman’s life.
Another characteristic of the Classical Hollywood Narrative is that the film remains mostly in the present, with the exception of a few flashbacks to the scene where he recorded the man and woman talking, and the ending which didn’t show the murder events in real time (the scenes were shown in fragmented flashbacks). Harry also has a dream in one scene, where he imagines warning the woman, but this is the only instance of dreaming in the film.
Aside from those characteristics, the film had many characteristics that did not reflect the Classical Hollywood Narrative. Perhaps the most prominent variation was that the film did not have a happy ending. Harry’s recordings were actually a part of a setup to have a businessman murdered. Harry was unaware of this, and he thought the recordings would be used to expose a love affair (and possibly lead to the death of the lovers).
In addition, the film did not give me closure. There were many unanswered questions at the end of the film. For example, will Harry give up surveillance after seeing the businessman murdered? Will he ever find the device that was recording him (he trashed the entire apartment!)? Where will his life go from here?
Furthermore, there were no clear goals in this film. It begins with a soft opening, and continues to follow Harry’s daily life, making it very individualistic. We see his quirky, private persona, but there is no goal other than Harry doing his daily work. A small goal begins to emerge halfway through the film, as Harry tries to figure out the purpose of the tapes and prevent the men from acquiring them. However, after they acquire them anyway, his focus shifts to what will happen to the individuals in the recording.
I found this film enjoyable, even though it did not have a happy ending with complete closure. The film engaged me throughout, and it did a great job of building a bit of mystery and suspense. I like movies that keep me guessing about what’s going to happen, and this film did that well.