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'He'd kill us if he had the chance'


Points of view in a movie: Convergent approach
Walter Murch Film-maker
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The opposite approach is the convergent which, in Godfather II is an extreme example of that, which is where... It's a film made up of two completely different tracks, and you intercut from one to the other. And in Godfather II, the point at which they meet is actually just outside of the film, which is where Marlon, the Godfather, comes in at the end of the film. You only hear him, you never see him, but he comes and you're left with Michael sitting alone at the table about to tell his father that he's joined the Marines.

But a more conventional approach would be a hypothetical film where you have a scene on a train with some businessmen going to the nearest town, discussing what they're going to do, and then you cut to a family in a car, going on a picnic. And the kids are making noise in the backseat and the father's telling them, 'Be quiet.' Then you cut back to the businessmen, then back to the car, and at a certain point, the train and the car are going to come together in an accident. And the businessmen and the family are going to, you know... Their stories are going to mix together. The problem with the single point-of-view film, and Talented Mr. Ripley is another example of this where we have an unsympathetic main character who murders people and lies, but you're fascinated with them. And hopefully, you're fascinated with the Harry Caul character. Or you just get up and leave the theatre. There isn't a scene where some of the other characters go off and say, 'What do you think about that Tom Ripley? I think he's duh duh duh.' It's – you're either looking at Tom Ripley or Harry Caul, or you're looking at something that he is looking at. You're never let off the hook. The problem is, how do you tell the truth in that story? It's tricky.

And we ran up... we run up against this problem in The Conversation, which is what happened, you know? We couldn't have a scene in which, you know, like the end of detective stories where they say, 'Well, actually he did this and she did that.' 'You mean?' 'Yes, he did that. And then...' We couldn't go there, because that would break the rules that we were operating under. So we had to find some way to help the audience in this way, and we were doing many things.

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: Godfather II, Talented Mr. Ripley, The Conversation, Tom Ripley

Duration: 2 minutes, 44 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 01 March 2017