Movie Fact #819 – April 12th, 2015:

The 1974 film “The Conversation” was released a few months before President Richard Nixon resigned from the White House and many though the film as a reaction to the Watergate scandal. This however, is an incorrect assumption.

Director Francis Ford Coppola has cited director Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 film “Blowup” as a key influence on his conceptualization of the film’s themes, such as surveillance versus participation, and perception versus reality. As quoted, “Francis had seen [it] a year or two before, and had the idea to fuse the concept of Blowup with the world of audio surveillance.” Coppola however was just as shocked by the film’s interpretation being a reaction to Watergate.

On the DVD commentary of the film, Coppola says he was shocked to learn that the film utilized the very same surveillance and wire-tapping equipment that members of the Nixon Administration used to spy on political opponents prior to the Watergate scandal. Coppola has said before this is the reason the film gained part of the recognition it has received, but that this is entirely coincidental. The script for “The Conversation” was completed in the mid-1960’s, which was before the Nixon Administration came to power, and the spying equipment used in the film was discovered through research and the use of technical advisers. Not, as many believed, by revelatory newspaper stories about the Watergate break-in.

Coppola also noted that filming of “The Conversation” had been completed several months before the most revelatory Watergate stories broke in the press. Coppola agrees though and felt that audiences interpreted the film to be a reaction to both the Watergate scandal and its fall-out because of the shocking similarities.

Coincidence seems to happen a lot in film. Maybe it’s because they are meant to capture the times around them or an out of nowhere curve of facts lead to real life and fiction colliding. Either way, “The Conversation” serves to tell a story about the situation of surveillance and ethics of such. Shouldn’t that message be heard either way?

Published in: on April 13, 2015 at 12:22 AM  Leave a Comment  

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