Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Joanne Mariano - Scene Analysis
"The Conversation" - Francis Coppola
The scene moves to a shot of Harry standing on the sink of the bathroom looking and listening through a vent within the wall. As he bends down to see what is located under the sink, Harry pulls out his blue suitcase of spying utensils and places it on top of the toilet. This is very interesting because usually suitcases are brown or black, especially if one is trying to be secretive like Harry should be; however, the suitcase is a bright blue and pops out in the shot which is mainly white and dark shadow colors. This is probably not a coincidence because blue is usually associated with the sky which may symbolize calmness, cleanliness, masculinity, wisdom, and intellect, unlike warmer colors such as red, orange, or yellow which may represent more emotional or interactive tones. The blue suitcase can symbolize wisdom and intellect because it contains the high technology audio equipment used to bug Harry’s victims. The blue can also symbolize calmness and cleanliness because his work is very dangerous and it can be considered “dirty work” so it is important for Harry to remain calm and clean.
Harry finds a spot in the plaster of the wall and drills a hole into it. This shot of the scene is crucial because Harry’s body position is much squished. According to Godfather: The Intimate Francis Ford Coppola by Gene D. Phillips, Coppola “called him Harry Call but the transcriber had typed Caul” and decided to keep it because he knew what a caul was: “a membrane that surrounds a fetus until it is born……Harry wears a translucent plastic raincoat, a visual symbol that he is still insulated inside a caul” (Phillips). This touches back to Harry’s position under the sink because he almost shrinks himself into a smaller area, resembling the image of a fetus. As he creates a hole in the wall, he blocks his loud action by constantly flushing the toilet next to him. This shot foreshadows the murder and is ironic because Harry’s way of keeping his audio surveillance action a secret by flushing the toilet is the same way the murderers in the other room try to keep their murder a secret and is revealed when Harry flushes their toilet and blood floods out.
Harry continues to listen to the conversation in Room 773, as the camera slowly zooms into his face. What the viewers hear is the muffled voices of the same couple from the beginning; however, the way they are speaking gives an idea that they are arguing. When Harry’s face consumes almost the entire space of the shot, a masculine voice says, “I can’t stand it, I can’t stand it.” Then a special effect noise is heard which sounds exactly like a tape being rewinded. The feminine voice from the original conversation repeats in Harry’s mind, “I love you,” and Harry fidgets, taking off his headphones with the impression that he was startled and cannot get the first conversation out of his mind. The camera zoom in this shot adds to the suspenseful effect. This shot shows that Harry’s character has somewhat changed. Usually, bugging people’s conversations are his expertise, and all he does is simply record what he hears, without trying to interpret everything. This time, Harry has made his job personal because of his fear of a planned murder. These few shots of Harry actually doing the job and listening into Room 773 in the bathroom is ironic as well because the bathroom is believed to be the most peaceful and private room in a house, but here, the exact opposite happens.
This scene is one of the most important scenes within the film because it directly includes the Watergate Scandal which has everything to do with privacy and surveillance by the government. This entire scene also delves into the true characteristics Harry Caul has. By the way this murder scene was shot and edited emphasizes the reality of what guilt and fear can do to a person.