The Conversation (1974)

The Conversation
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Writer: Francis Ford Coppola
Cast: Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Frederic Forrest, Cindy Williams, Michael Higgins, Elizabeth MacRae, Teri Garr, Harrison Ford
Seen on: 29.9.2015

Harry (Gene Hackman) is a specialist for surveillance, for eavesdropping, for spying. He can record anything and takes great pride in his technical aptness to do his job, and at the same time he has become quite paranoid. When he is tasked to listen to the conversation of a young couple, Harry realizes that the information he is collecting might cause them to be in mortal danger.

The Conversation, unfortunately, was completely boring. I can imagine that it gets quite hypnotic if you can fall into it, but I was much too bored to even get close to it.


I think the most engaging part for me (apart from young, hot Harrison Ford) was to see how much technology has changed in the past 40 years. I bet at the time the technology Harry uses was probably at least cutting edge, if not science fiction-y, but by now those 40 years really make themselves felt. The cables, tapes and satellite dishes feel outsized and outlandish.

That doesn’t mean that the questions raised in the film aren’t still entirely relevant today, although most stories about surveillance and information gathering have quite a different feel to them by now, although privacy is still a hot topic. But where The Conversation frames surveillance as a question of power that gives one the fantasy of control while actually making one more dependant on information than critical thinking, ultimately leading to one’s own destruction, stories about surveillance today ask the question of who is allowed to have that power that doesn’t give fantasies of control but actual control. [Of course that is a very short and simplified summary of a complex debate, but I do believe it holds true.]

Conversation1But even though the topic of surveillance, privacy and power is interesting and can make for interesting discussions, the film was not. I just didn’t care for Harry or any of the other characters and the film never really grabbed me or managed to pull me in.

Instead I just wanted things to get a move on, to finally get somewhere. I waited for something to happen and when it finally did, I was too tired to care. Maybe the film hit me at the wrong moment, but I just found it very frustrating.

Conversation2Summarizing: didn’t work for me.


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