The Conversation is a film made in 1974 about surveillance technology and the moral dilemmas one faces when using this technology. Honestly the movie moved too slow for me as I had a hard time staying awake in it. I find it interesting that it is categorized as a thriller because of its slow pace. I guess I am more into the fast paced, action thrillers when it comes to this particular type of movie. It did however give me a better understanding about sound design in a film.
This film starts with a scene in the middle of a city courtyard that has a variety of activities going on and it is lunch time. There is an overwhelming amount of ambient sound, there is also music and other sound effects. Harry is trying to record a conversation of this couple who are constantly walking around in circles because they think this will help them not be able to be recorded. This was more accurate in the time this film was made. They had one guy wired and casually following them around. One on the roof of a building with a microphone attached to a scope to follow them and another in a building. You could hear a lot of disjointed sounds that were supposed to be interference and feedback along with just the other sounds of chaos in the background. When he starts to go through the recordings in his lab, he is able to adjust the interference and take out the background noises in order to get a clearer recording of just the conversation between this couple.
Harry is just an ordinary man who records and does surveillance work to make a living. He doesn’t care what the people say or who he works for as long as he gets paid. His friends and colleagues question his ethics and moral character when they start discussing what has happened to some of the people he has done surveillance on. This gets him started to think that maybe he has played a role in some of these people’s death. He decides to destroy his current tapes because he doesn’t want any connection to this couple being harmed. He dreams about telling the woman that she is not safe and about some of his struggles growing up. The tapes are stolen and given to the director who ordered the surveillance and he realizes that the woman he has recorded is the wife of the director. You can see the turmoil in his actions and facial expressions of what harm may come to her.
As Harry decides he has listened to this recording so many times he knows that this Sunday there is something big going down. He wants to do the right thing, but ends up in a room next to the one in question. He tries to listen to what is going on and when it is clear that someone is being harmed in the next room, he has a mental breakdown. He knows it is partly his fault. He turns the TV on, closes the curtains and crawls into bed pulling the covers and pillows up over his head. He doesn’t call the police or leave. The music gets all distorted in this part with the high pitched psycho killer sounds. Then back to a static sounding TV with the Flintstones on it. The couple he records are the actual killers and they know that he knows. He is given a warning at the end to stay out of it, along with a recording of him in his apartment. This throws him into a spiral of tearing his whole apartment apart trying to find out how they are surveilling him. I spent a lot of time listening to the sounds in this film, trying to pick apart what sound went to what type of sounds there are in films. I think this film gives good examples of sound design, even if it was a slow movie for me.