There’s nothing more impressive than being able to hold the attention of an audience with words and words alone. In the age of the massive-budget hollywood blockbuster where huge robots explode, the world is always in peril, and semi-clad women are everywhere (and usually, only talking about men) , the art of quality dialogue can take a back seat. Its refreshing to focus on films, filmmakers, and writers who can keep you on the edge of your seat, keep you involved, or make you laugh just by applying a nuanced and tactful understanding of the art of conversation. So for this post, we’ve collated some of the most enthralling, gripping and captivating conversational scenes in recent cinema history – take a peek at our list below:
Clerks – Death Star Contractors
Kevin Smiths low-budget directorial debut Clerks is a film that relies on the relationship between its characters. The dialogue in Clerks is funny, witty, and sarcastic and its main characters Dante and Randal have a palpable on screen chemistry. In a way, their snappy, sprawling conversations are the very heart of the film – from the nerdy to the surreal, the comedic to the bitter, the personal to the profound. One could argue that Clerks is, in a way, a series vignettes that imbue the monotony and mundanity of day to day life with charisma and charm. This particular ‘geek-off’ between Dante, Randal and a contractor is especially memorable for their attempts to bring realistic logic to the sci-fi world of Star Wars.
Inglorious Basterds – Opening Scene
There are too many tense, dialogue-filled scenes to chose from in this Tarantino outing – we have to give a shout out to the ‘Strudel scene’ and the excruciatingly tense ‘Bar scene’ (which you can, and should watch in its entirety here!). But we’ve gone with the opening Pipe and Milk scene in which the brilliant and terrifying Colonel Hans Landa, played by a Christoph Waltz in top form, meticulously ‘interrogates’ a provincial farmer who appears to be hiding something – or someone. Tarantino films are stylish, hip and sometimes even border on the absurd, but beneath the glistening surfaces of his movies lays a deep commitment to the art of conversation.
Pulp Fiction – Royale with cheese
The classic, endlessly quotable scene from Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction is another example of how seemingly run-of-the-mill conversations becoming absolutely riveting. It’s hard to describe exactly what makes this exchange so engrossing – it could be the definite cool that Vincent and Jules project, or the sheer disbelief conveyed about the “little differences” of European culture, or even just hearing Travolta and Jackson say “Le Big Mac”- but in the end, the inability to put your finger on exactly what makes this conversation so gripping is, in a way, part of its very appeal. Another part of it however, is Vincent and Jules’ substantial investment in and enthusiasm for the conversation itself- it’s infectious. They’re only talking about a burger, but to them, and by extension to us the audience, its a subject of immense fascination.
Goodfellas – How the fuck am i funny?
Another iconic scene from another iconic film. Scorsese’s classic Goodfellas sees Joe Pesci at his story-telling best, with Ray Liotta and his gang of mobsters playing interested audience. It’s Pesci rapid transition from slick-talking narrator to intense interrogator himself, that makes the audience hang on every word in this conversation. We’re gripped as the jovial mood turns sour and the promise of disagreement, conflict or violence slowly begins to rear its head. And then, at the very peak, the very climax of this tension… Well, see for yourself.
No Country For Old Men – Gas station scene.
The Coen Brothers and Javier Bardem created one of the most chilling silver-screen villains of all time in Anton Chigurh. His thickly-accented baritone voice, his piercing gaze, and even his strangely unsettling haircut (that seems to stare into your soul just as much as his eyes do), all make him a thoroughly intriguing character. This conversation in a gas station, which revolves around chance, captivates the audience by instilling in them the same fear and uncertainty that seems to grip the gas station attendant.
American Psycho – Business card scene.
Everyone’s favourite serial killer Patrick Bateman goes through the motions in the boardroom; trading compliments, making small talk and dealing with being mistaken for somebody else. Whilst the situation might sound rather banal, Bale’s inner monologue and his palpable dissatisfaction and sarcasm transform this mundane scene into a thoroughly absorbing one. The passion for and obsession with the most minute details of the card, coupled with Bateman’s struggle to hold his rage and jealousy at bay, turn this little act of networking and showmanship into a life or death situation. Part of the message of this scene revolves around meaningless conversation (the mistaken identity gives weight to this idea), so for the audience to be so engaged in such a situation is truly impressive.