I’ve been a sucker all my life for scenes of long-delayed revelation or confession that are nonetheless inaudible due to directorial strategy.
Two of my top three are YouTubed below. My third favorite is Leo G. Carroll‘s remarkably concise explanation to Cary Grant about the whole George Kaplan decoy scheme in North by Northwest. The all-but-deafening sound of nearby aircraft engines allows Carroll to explain all the whats, whys and wherefores in roughly ten or twelve seconds; otherwise a full-boat explanation would take at least…what, 45 or 50 seconds? A minute or two?
My favorite is the On The Waterfront moment in which Marlon Brando‘s Terry confesses to Eva Marie Saint‘s Edie that he was unwittingly complicit in her brother’s murder. Because it’s not just an admission but a plea for forgiveness with Terry insisting it wasn’t his idea to kill Joey or anyone else (“I swear to God, Edie!”), and that he thought “they was just gonna lean on him a little,” as he says to his brother Charlie (Rod Steiger) in the film’s second scene.
I’m mentioned the Mississippi Burning moment between Gene Hackman and Frances McDormand a couple of times before. It’s arguably the most powerful moment in this racially charged 1988 thriller, which is based on the infamous 1964 murder of three civil-rights workers. A third-act fantasy spin was the main criticism when it opened, but it emotionally satisfied and that’s what counts.
There’s also that Foreign Correspondent moment inside the Butch windmill when Joel McCrea can hear the murmur of bad-guy voices but not what’s being said. Others?
Cary Grant, Leo G. Carroll during the Chicago / Midway airport confession scene.