"The Conversation" directed by Gene Hackman, is a mysterious movie about a "paranoid and personally-secretive surveillance expert who has a crisis of conscience when he suspects that a couple he is spying on will be murdered" (IMBD). Harry, the surveillance experts job, is to spy on people, listen to their conversations, record them, and send tapes of the recordings to the individual who hired him to do the job. In this specific case Harry feels as though he is wrapped up in dirty business that he wants to get down to the bottom of. The overall basis of the movie is centered around the conversation that this couple is having at a park. Various times throughout the movie the conversation is re-played continuously. Harry starts to become obsessed with this conversation as he listens to it over and over again trying to understand the meaning of the conversation the couple is having.
While watching and paying close attention to the movie, I noticed that Harry is extremely secretive about his surveillance business. Not only does he dis enable people from knowing about it, but his co workers also know very little about the surveillance jobs Harry does. Harry has trouble letting people into his world of surveillance, such as his girlfriend, his friends, and co workers; because of this Harry seems to be a closed off person. This feeling of suspicion that Harry gives off through his acting in the movie plays into the editing of the movie also. The editing in this movie keeps the viewer in constant wonder the whole entire time. This is evident in various editing choices; if not for the editing, this movie would not have been as analytical and suspicious.
The editing style of this movie left the audience unknown to the entire truth behind the conversation the whole time. As a viewer I was unsure of what was happening I found myself continuously asking questions to try and figure out what the conversation meant between this couple. I was unsure of who wanted to murder the couple, why this individual wanted to murder the couple, and what this individuals motives were. Through the continuity and disjunctive style of editing I was left without the answers to these questions the entire film.
Continuity style of editing is "a system that uses cuts and other transitions to establish verisimilitude and to tell stories efficiently, requiring minimal mental effort on the part of viewers". One of the main aspects of continuity style editing is its use of invisible editing which "minimizes the perception of breaks between shots". In "The conversation," continuity style editing was used a lot throughout the film in terms of invisible editing. As a viewer I was unable to tell when the cuts and breaks were happening. The cuts were normally hidden and unseen as I was watching the film, but one aspect of continuity style editing that this movie lacked, was the element of relaxation and passivity that this style of editing usually brings to a film. I found myself the whole time thinking participating fully in the film experience trying to process what was happening. Although the cuts were not choppy with constant flow between each shot, and a constant relation between each shot, there was a strong analytical element to this film. This is where the element of disjunctive editing comes into play.
As a viewer I had to think constantly about what was going on, this film created an element of distanation for me which is one of the integral parts of disjunctive editing. "A distanation technique specific to film is the jump cut, a disjunctive cut that interrupts a particular action and, intentionally or unintentionally, creates discontinues in the spatial or temporal development of shots." Although this film I believe has jump cuts the editors placed them in the film in a seamless way. As a viewer there were many shots in the movie that gave you part of the story, but not the whole story, as soon as a specific shot opened up a new answer to the mystery the shot would cut and move on to another element of the movie. Many shots were discontinuous throughout the movie leaving you unknown to the whole truth of the story. The editors would give you a dose of the answers a little at a time, but never the whole truth. There were also moments in the movie when Harry's conscience was seen in the movie, but as a viewer you were unsure whether or not it was his conscience or if it was really happening. This is another way I believe the editors used jump cuts in the movie because the assumptions are unclear. Many shots in the movie were never continous, they developed but they were temporal.
Combined the continuity and disjunctive style of editing left my mind boggled at the end of the movie still trying to figure out what just actually happened. The movie was annoying and frustrating in that aspect, but I believe that is what the director was looking to accomplish in this film; a sense of wonder, and mystery throughout the making of this movie. As I have said many times the meaning behind "The Conversation" was never fully understood, the movie ended with an unresolved cliff hanger which leaves the viewer hoping for a second half to this story to answer all of the unanswered questions.