5. Eric Rohmer
One of the most important filmmakers of the Nouvelle Wage is Eric Rohmer. He is the kind of filmmaker who had a very clear sense of what kinds of films he wanted to make, and he found a crew of actors, technicians and artists with whom he worked closely for as many years as he could. This allowed him to make a very characteristic kind of cinema in which conversations play a major role.
What makes Rohmer’s conversations so interesting is that instead of dynamic scenes that rely on tension, the conversations are done with the sole purpose of revealing the characters; there is no conflict and there is not a major plot that drives the interest of the characters.
The interaction between human beings is the object of Rohmer’s conversations. The organic way in which this is done is the enchant of this conversation, and the writing is consistent with the camera, which does not dissect the scenes in the way that more classic filmmakers would.
4. Quentin TarantinoThe breakfast scene in “Reservoir Dogs,” the Bible extract from “Pulp Fiction,” the first scene in “Inglourious Basterds” and the scenes about hamburgers. These are all conversations we can see in Quentin Tarantino’s films that have been hard-wired into our memory as some of the most exciting scenes we have seen.
The greatness of Tarantino is the way in which he is always entertaining and always surprising. Since he has a deep understanding of film form, the tools one can see in his conversations vary from one conversation to the other, and maybe this is why he is always surprising.
There are conversations, such as the visit of Hans Landa to Monsieur LaPadite’s house, that rely completely on tension and are written and structured according to the classic scheme of three acts that lead to conclusion after a confrontation.
But there are also conversation scenes where nothing dramatic is going on, but which Tarantino writes in a way where we are constantly learning something new about the characters. These scenes are extremely hard to write, and yet Tarantino has the talent to do it a fashion that it is never boring or redundant.
3. Billy Wilder
When André Bazin wrote “What is Cinema?” one of the major sources of examples to talk about regarding their position of the camera in relation to the scene was Billy Wilder. The director of some of the greatest films in the Golden Era of Hollywood was one who blocked the scenes in relation to the camera, and through this he managed to create extremely compelling conversations.
In films such as “Sunset Boulevard” or “The Apartment,” there are conversation scenes in which the camera is a strong perspective that enables us to see an emotion that certain characters keep a secret, an isolation of the character or a fear of something being revealed.
Apart from this, Wilder wrote his scripts with such care and precision that there was subtext in almost every dialogue, delivered by some of the greatest actors in film history. This makes the films of Wilder not only compelling, but also extremely entertaining since one is constantly on the edge of their seat trying to figure out what the the characters are trying to say and if the other characters are understanding.
2. Ingmar Bergman
The Swedish legendary director and writer was firstly (and also through his filmmaking career) a theater man, and maybe it was the deep understanding he had from theater that empowered him to create some of the most memorable conversations in film history. He is one of the directors who was able to make a conversation with just one or two cuts. Bergman preferred to let his actors move and use the mise-en-scene in relation to the blocking of the camera to express the inner voyage of their characters during each scene.
The long takes of Bergman were a pathway in film history, but he was also able to rely on the more conventional shot-reverse-shot when it was necessary. Some of the conversation that rely heavily in long takes are in “Summer with Monika” or “Smiles from a Summer Night.”
An exception to this can be seen in the conversations of “Persona,” in which the characters barely move, but through dialogue and montage, extremely complex processes are conveyed. Obviously, Bergman always had the help of the wonderful actors and actresses with whom he worked during all of his career.
1. The Coen Brothers
The Coen brothers take a very classic approach to certain aspects of film form and one can see this in the way they shot their conversations. First, their conversations are almost always dramatic. This means that even though they consist of usually only two characters throwing lines at each other, their dialogues are actions in constant tension. This tension is developed in a clear structure of statement, development, confrontation and resolution. This is why they are so entertaining.
Even though the structure of their conversation is complex, the Coen brothers’ most important element are the rhythm of their editing and their actors. They are wonderful directors who always work with great actors who are able to convey subtle emotions, which they are able to use in the editing room to convey the dramatic structure of the scene.
One of the well-crafted conversations of the Coen brothers, in which they display these elements, is the coin toss in “No Country for Old Men.” This is one of the most memorable scenes of the film, even though one of the characters only appears, and this is because of the emotion it conveys to the viewer.