This film is very closely related to the political process in that it deals with the largest scandal in United States Presidential history. The plot revolves around the aftermath of Nixon’s allegations, and the discontent harbored by many, who crave some sort of admission of guilt, or some sort of apology. This relates because it illustrates the consequences of Presidential scandal, this is important because without this chain of events, up to this historic interview, the President had gone completely unpunished, either figuratively, or literally.
The conflict existing in the film is obviously the interview that this film is centered around. The conflict is clearly between Frost, and Nixon. But it is more than just that, it is their teams of researchers, and the constant possibility of the truth coming out of the mouth of Nixon himself. For the entirety of the film, it is obvious that Nixon is “winning.” The conflict reaches its climax, however, when the interview reaches the topic of Watergate. It is clear Nixon is reluctant to speak about Watergate, and Frost is eager to “nail him.”
Not only is the all important issue of Watergate brought up, other important issues, such as Vietnam. The clear lack of Frost’s ability to keep Nixon from rambling causes these topics to result in a “win” for Nixon. Also the issue of Nixon’s resignation is directly addressed in the interview. Nixon continues to respond with a very straight, professional answer.
Photography – The photography throughout the entire film is truly what makes it the masterpiece that it is. One scene in particular truly strikes the right note in that it shows terrifying images, evoking reactions and emotions in the viewers, but at the same time, it shows the emotion that is felt by Nixon, and his team. This scene begins with what can be seen as a turning point in the film, when Frost finally asserts his control over the argument, and in doing so, comes to a perfect time to strike at Nixon with these dreadful images. While Frost is arguing his point, the photography is brilliant; the scene communes the impact of the comments beautifully. As the tape begins to roll, the viewer sees the images that Nixon sees, but also, the camera shows Nixon’s reactions to the terrifying images that he created. We also see the reaction of Jack Brennan, Nixon’s Military consultant. He likely played a large role in the decisions to continue with the war. Almost all shots in this scene are close up; this is used by the director as a good way to amplify the emotion that is conveyed by the actors.
Movement – In the same scene hand gestures play an important role. While Frost first interrupts Nixon, his hand gestures are very important in impacting Nixon. Frost swings around his hands in a pointing motion towards Nixon, shifting the focus of the conversation, he then continues to illustrate carpet bombing, and wiping out civilians with his hands. After hearing a bit Nixon, too, points at Frost in an attempt to shift the focus to him. Other motions throughout the scene paint more of a mental picture than we can see on the screen, this is why this film is so incredible, it becomes more than just images on a screen, but images in someone’s mind.
Editing – This film is special in that it does not jump around with camera angles as much as it could, while most films with this much dialogue would use a variety of camera angles, this film managed to project a sense that the viewer is experiencing the interview and its outcome for the first time, and as if they don’t know the outcome. The editing mainly consisted of taking the camera angles that makes the film brilliant, and making them even more impactful. The scene when Jack stops the interview is crucial in that it cuts to Jack, and Nixon’s team, the interview and Frost’s team (not necessarily in that order.) Everyone rushes out of their respective rooms into the interview room, and the obscenities fly. The result of the editing in this scene is that the viewer actually becomes angry at Jack, at times I felt like joining in on the cussing. The beauty of editing in this film landed it a Best Picture nomination.
Sound – This film is very different, likely due to the fact that it is an adaptation of a play, it has almost no music, and throughout the entire interview there is almost nothing but ambient sounds and speaking. The director managed to dramatize the most tedious scenes with nothing but camera angles and stellar editing. The lack of music is clearly to allow the viewer to focus more on the dialogue than anything else. A good example of when there is sound is the scene where Jack is talking to Nixon in his private room, after breaking up the interview. There is nothing but talking, and very quiet, individual piano chords, these chords strike the sub-conscious, and develop a mood. This is the genius of Hans Zimmer.
Acting – The acting in this film is done by a group of people who had never really participated in such a large project (aside from Kevin Bacon.) The lack of star power in this film turned out to be a great advantage the director to use. A great scene to illustrate it is the same as music. The actors are put into such a solemn and serious topic, and they perform incredibly, at many times in movies viewers seem to forget they are in a movie, but in this scene it goes further than that. It feels as if you are invisible in the room, watching these historic events unfold right in front of your face. All of the actors in this film truly take on their roles in perfect form.
The brilliant acting really comes out here. The actors react as if these events actually just took place. Their facial expressions and body language convey their messages, even without hearing exactly what they are saying. The scene and all of the symbolism involved becomes stiflingly clear, and all of the visual beauty of the scene is more evident.
The music at the very end of the film (not the credits) conveys a message of sadness, but it also connotes the legacy of Watergate, and how it truly has shaped American history. It also is somewhat redemptive for Richard Nixon, because it follows a scene showing Richard Nixon as a normal, human, mistake-prone person. The movie strangely begins with making the viewer hate Nixon, and ends in them understanding him. The music means everything in this scene, and it shapes it.
This film revolves around the historic Frost/Nixon interviews, where Nixon “spills the beans”. The film revolves not just around the story of David Frost, but it also illustrates to the viewer what exactly Richard Nixon was thinking at the time these interviews take place.