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The Talented Mr. Ripley and the single point of view


The quality of sound can tell a story
Walter Murch Film-maker
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And the conceit of this section of the film is that, at a certain point, Welles is going to know that he is being bugged. And how this happens is that the action crosses a bridge, and Charlton Heston is forced to go underneath the bridge, in the water of the canal, and the sound of Welles's voice going through the radio is picked up by Heston's recorder, and that sound echoes underneath the bridge. And so when Welles talks, talks, there is a little bit of an echo, echo. And that makes Quinlan, Welles, go, 'What's that, that? Somebody recording me, me?' 'It's you, Menzies, you.' And that's when he realised the turncoat, and the struggle ensues, which results in Menzies being shot. But it's all down to the sound, and not only the sound itself, but the quality of the sound. The fact that the sound, the quality of the sound changed when Heston was forced to go underneath the bridge, underneath this arch, is the thing around which the whole plot resolution of the whole story shifts. So if you're looking for a very good example of how to use sound to help you tell your story in an economical way, there it is. And it's because Welles was a complete director, in the sense of having done radio drama, having done theatre drama, having done film. He knew all of the tricks, and was sensitive to the meaning of something as insignificant as, say, reverberation, echo, and how it could be used at the right moment to help twist the end of the story.

Born in 1943 in New York City, Murch graduated from the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television. His career stretches back to 1969 and includes work on Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I, II, and III, American Graffiti, The Conversation, and The English Patient. He has been referred to as 'the most respected film editor and sound designer in modern cinema.' In a career that spans over 40 years, Murch is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Francis Ford Coppola, beginning in 1969 with The Rain People. After working with George Lucas on THX 1138 (1971), which he co-wrote, and American Graffiti (1973), Murch returned to Coppola in 1974 for The Conversation, resulting in his first Academy Award nomination. Murch's pioneering achievements were acknowledged by Coppola in his follow-up film, the 1979 Palme d'Or winner Apocalypse Now, for which Murch was granted, in what is seen as a film-history first, the screen credit 'Sound Designer.' Murch has been nominated for nine Academy Awards and has won three, for best sound on Apocalypse Now (for which he and his collaborators devised the now-standard 5.1 sound format), and achieving an unprecedented double when he won both Best Film Editing and Best Sound for his work on The English Patient. Murch’s contributions to film reconstruction include 2001's Apocalypse Now: Redux and the 1998 re-edit of Orson Welles's Touch of Evil. He is also the director and co-writer of Return to Oz (1985). In 1995, Murch published a book on film editing, In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing, in which he urges editors to prioritise emotion.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Touch of Evil, Orson Welles

Duration: 2 minutes, 19 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017