Touch of Evil is also notable for its long takes, with smooth camera movement within each take. What would conventionally have taken 2 or 3 shots, Welles manages to achieve with a single shot, and with much better effect. One example is the scene where American policemen are taken to Vargas’ chambers where he shows them some documentary evidence relating to the dynamite used for the bomb. There we see, in a single take, Vargas’ futile attempt to get through to his wife over the phone, as well as the discussion of the revelation about the dynamite. At moments the two conversations even overlap, which is the Wellesian equivalent of a musical polyphony. Barring the demands such crossed conversation has on the listener’s ear, it is the cinematic equivalent of counterpoint – a musical style made famous during the Baroque era. We see such contrapuntal dialogue, as it were, at many places in the film. This is the natural way of conversation during human interaction, which lends the scene a high degree of realism. Besides, the polyphony is symbolic of the prevailing tension in the context of the crime. Welles’ acoustic style also entails
“his displacement of voices that are racially, sexually, and culturally inflected, even as he condenses those voices into a memorable third sound that seems to escape the limits of the sound track. The contrapuntal polyphony makes it impossible to grasp the sum or total of the composition, and sets up the necessary condition for some loss of sound. But they are also moments that make it possible to hear with distinctness each sound as it is added, and that dynamically reconfigure our sense of what is being expressed as well as erased.” (Oliver & Trigo, 2003, p. 67).
In sum, barring the obvious deficiencies in script, Touch of Evil is, indeed, a triumph of style and technique.
Anderegg, Michael. Orson Welles, Shakespeare, and Popular Culture. New York: Columbia UP, 1999. Film and Culture. Print.
Oliver, Kelly, and Benigno Trigo. Noir Anxiety. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2003. Print.
“Orson Classic Has Wooden Flaws .” Daily Mail (London) 18 June 1999. Print.