In an earlier post, I have said that there is another interesting shot in the movie ‘The Conversation’. This shot is not so much like a difficult shot to shoot, but what interests me more about this shot is what it brings to the table. It is interesting in that it goes beyond its immediate purposes of forcing the plot forward, and tries to give an insight into people.
The shot begins with Harry in the confessional, and telling the priest his sins. The focus is completely on Harry at the beginning of the shot.
But as his monologue proceeds, the camera zooms on…
…and on until he is totally out of focus; The background which had been dark until now, is illuminated.
The camera zooms further until Harry is completely out of the frame and we can make out the face of the priest through the mesh.
If this shot was only intended to take the story forward, it would have been sufficient to leave the focus on Harry, but Coppola goes beyond Harry. So, why does he do that? I think, and I may be wrong, that he is making a comment here.
Until, now, Coppola has introduced us to three kinds of people, or let me say, professions. The first one, introduced in the very opening shot of the movie, is the mime. The mime is a very simple fellow, he looks at our mannerisms, the way we walk, the way we talk, how we sip coffee, and so on, and tries to imitate us, and thereby entertain us. So long as his subject, which is you and me, doesn’t notice him, the mime is us. He tries to look into us, and we let him, because he is only scraping the surface of what we are.
The second person, is Harry himself, a surveillance technician, who is the subject of the movie. This man looks into our deepest secrets, and does that neither with our knowledge nor our permission to do it. And for that, this man is the most despised of all.
The third person, whom Coppola introduces, is the priest who is introduced in this shot. This person is more interesting because we let him on our deepest secrets ourselves; he neither asks us nor are we forced to tell him our secrets, we do that off our own accord. The act of confession somehow makes us lighter, and happier, and this priest in the confessional is the most respected and loved of these three guys.
This is what interests me about this shot. With this shot, Coppola has given us three distinct people, the mime, the spy, and the priest, hitherto unconnected people, and has tied them together. And he’s asking us to brood over them for a while.