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  • The opening shot of Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 classic

  • is a close up of Bonasera

  • who utters a now famous line

  • 00:00:23,960 --> 00:00:25,420 The camera then opens up

  • and reveals the world where the story is going to unfold.

  • The seductive nature of this opening shot lures us into the mystery of this world;

  • the world of The Godfather.

  • Bonasera's opening monologue forms a significant part of the elaborate opening sequence

  • which is intercut with Connie and Carlo's wedding outside.

  • This is the sequence where most of the themes are established.

  • First, it establishes the perspective.

  • We are going to witness this world from inside.

  • We see the nervous immigrants seeking justice,

  • an Italian mob wedding,

  • food, family, friends.

  • The mafia is presented as everyday people,

  • not as the scum of the society like in the previous mob films.

  • The family ties are established with as much importance as the world of mafia itself.

  • This is where we understand that despite the nature of its world,

  • The Godfather, inherently,

  • is a family drama.

  • Coppola uses contradiction to establish the complex nature of the family business

  • and shapes our understanding towards these men.

  • Through Bonasera,

  • we understand that the Corleone family is on the side of justice.

  • But the way of providing justice paints them unlawful.

  • A sense of respect is evident on Kay's face

  • when Michael explains to her why Tom Hagen has a different last name.

  • But that feeling diminishes when she gets to know the importance of Luca Brasi.

  • The two significant shots from the opening sequence show Vito

  • gazing out through his office window at the family celebration.

  • These shots link the exterior to the interior,

  • balancing for Vito his want and need,

  • leisure and obligation,

  • family and business.

  • His commitment to his work is the sole reason for the opulence outside.

  • The acquisition of wealth and happiness involve acts of violence.

  • The key aspect to notice in this opening sequence

  • sequence is that the violence performed on Vito's behalf isn't something we are asked to judge.

  • Instead, we focus more on how the family business keeps Vito away from the business of family.

  • None of these sentiments are spoken out loud.

  • Not even in the form of exposition.

  • This is all in subtext.

  • Coppola presents the subtext through masterful staging and blocking.

  • An extraordinary emphasis is put on set design, lighting and camera placement.

  • Notice the scene when Tom is being held captive.

  • The opening shot is a grotesque wide angle close up of Sollozzo bathed in warm orange light.

  • He walks across the camera to present Tom in a half lit mid-shot.

  • There's no establishing shot.

  • That is because we have to share Tom's uncertainty

  • to feel sympathetic to his situation.

  • Another scene where Michael realizes

  • that the safety of his father and family depends upon the assassination of both Sollozzo and McCluskey,

  • he takes control of the meeting and the scene

  • by taking a seat in the center of the frame.

  • During the entire assassination sequence,

  • Michael is aware of the fact that he is an actor performing a script.

  • So when he comes out of the bathroom,

  • we expect him to carry out Clamenza's instructions.

  • But Coppola plays with audience's expectation.

  • Michael strays from the script.

  • He comes out and looks Sollozzo in the eye.

  • There's a moment of hesitation.

  • He was supposed to come out blasting.

  • Instead, he walks to the table and sits down.

  • The conversation continues.

  • The action is suspended,

  • strengthening our desire to reach the intended conclusion.

  • But Michael's introspection reads hesitation

  • and as we worry that he might lack the courage to pull the trigger.

  • We want him to remember Clemenza's words

  • because we really want him to get away with the murders.

  • But Michael's diversion from the given instructions

  • is how Coppola makes us root for Michael.

  • He must do that

  • because the main theme of the film requires

  • that we root for Michael.

  • And that theme

  • is the theme of succession.

  • One of the most significant decisions Coppola took while adapting the novel

  • was to focus less on Vito and more on Michael.

  • And the way Michael's character arc is presented is a stuff of genius

  • from both Coppola and the cinematographer, Gordon Willis.

  • When we meet Michael for the first time,

  • he is presented in a bright sunlight.

  • He enters his sister's wedding like an outsider.

  • A sense of naïve innocence is evident when he assures Kay,

  • Then he stays away from much of the action.

  • And when he does come back, he is treated as a kid.

  • Tom advises him not to get involved too directly

  • He is given meager jobs like answering phone calls.

  • It is done intentionally

  • because Michael needs to gain the trust of his family.

  • Which in turn means ours as well.

  • That moment arrives when Michael saves his father in the hospital.

  • The first character change occurs when he assures his father,

  • He takes control of the situation.

  • He gains our trust with his shrewd handling of a potentially fatal situation.

  • Later in the house, he has to assume even bigger responsibility.

  • The weight of the decision reflects in the camera movement.

  • As Michael explains his intentions,

  • the camera slowly tracks in on him from a wide to a mid-shot,

  • begging everyone to take the boy seriously.

  • Because we have witnessed his actions in the hospital,

  • we know he means business, while everyone else laughs.

  • His time in Italy keeps him away from the ugly war in New York.

  • He marries Apollonia partly out of guilt.

  • The guilt of not staying true to his words he assured Kay with.

  • But the news of Sunny's death

  • and witnessing his wife's murder hardens him.

  • The devastation of losing his loved ones forces him to grow old quickly.

  • He understands the importance of keeping his lineage going.

  • So when he proposes Kay for marriage,

  • it is more out of business reasons than out of love.

  • This is the point where Michael starts to become central to the family.

  • Coppola saw the Corleone family as something that belongs to a Shakespearean universe.

  • A king with his three sons inheriting part of his qualities.

  • Sonny inherited the robust strength.

  • Fredo inherited the sweetness of a young mind.

  • While Michael inherited the cunning intelligence.

  • And it is his intelligence that fuels the rest of the film.

  • It is interesting to observe how much of The Godfather takes place indoors,

  • in softly lit rooms, to mask the business of the family.

  • The style grants the family a sense of visual safety from the outside world

  • which is noticeably missing when the movie takes place outside.

  • Because of the knowledge of the danger of the outside world,

  • Michael prefers to take care of the family business indoors.

  • And when he would choreograph the murder of his enemies later in the film,

  • all but one will be carried out indoors.

  • Places others would also assume to be safe.

  • But for Michael to carry out such a big act of violence,

  • he has to assume the ultimate position.

  • There has to be an exchange of power from the old to the new.

  • And that happens in this beautiful, and pivotal scene.

  • Which is also my favorite.

  • The exchange of power happens over 12 over the shoulder shots,

  • last of which becomes a lengthy two shot.

  • The scene plays out in three levels.

  • At textual level,

  • it presents Vito alerting Michael of his possible assassination.

  • This is a father discussing the family business with his son.

  • At the second level, it is subtext.

  • And the subtext is personal.

  • At first, Vito's mind seems to be wandering with multiple thoughts.

  • When Michael assures his concerned father with the line,

  • Vito gets his only chance in the movie to exercise his eloquent soliloquy.

  • An extraneously presented inner monologue

  • provides Vito a well-deserved moment of clarity.

  • A moment where a father can apologize to his son

  • for an unintended fate.

  • While all of this is happening,

  • Coppola guides us towards the third level, where the theme of succession takes place.

  • Michael's assurance to his father is queued with Nino Rota's Godfather theme.

  • This timely yet subtle introduction of the musical piece

  • marks the exit of the old Godfather

  • and the arrival of the new.

  • Vito's death allows Michael to execute a plan he was patiently waiting for.

  • The day he becomes the Godfather for his niece

  • is planned to coincide with the day he executes his enemies.

  • So brilliant is the execution of Coppola's filmmaking

  • that we are invited to examine our initial decision to back Michael

  • to become the successor of the family.

  • His way of using his alibi to carry out

  • the violence of towing proportion

  • dents our respect towards Michael.

  • And this is the moment

  • where the film's metaphor of American capitalism reaches its zenith.

  • The baptism sequence shows that to be successful,

  • Michael has to pay a price.

  • And the price is to trade soul for success.

  • That's a sacrifice Michael is willing to make.

  • An apt commentary on the American capitalist ideology where ruthlessness in the marketplace

  • has become a necessary credential for success.

  • This ruthlessness is on display again when he decides to execute two more people.

  • Tessio and his sister's husband, Carlo.

  • If there was ever any doubt about his cold-blooded approach towards the family business,

  • this is the sequence where it is eradicated.

  • There are no sentiments involved.

  • Michael had learnt his lesson early on,

  • There is an old saying.

  • You reap what you sow”.

  • The Sicilian seeds of violence sowed in the American soil

  • comes back to haunt Michael at the very end of the film.

  • When Michael lies to Kay about his involvement in Carlo's murder,

  • it feels like a selfish act to keep his image in her eyes intact,

  • rather than keeping his family unaffected by the business.

  • The family that Vito always kept in sight despite his commitment towards the family business,

  • is abandoned by Michael when he shuts the door on his wife.

  • For the family business to flourish,

  • Michael sacrifices his ties with his family.

  • From a naïve, innocent and a stoic war hero,

  • he ends up becoming a cold, heartless and a vengeful mafia lord.

  • The tragedy for Michael

  • is that he couldn't avoid the inevitable doom of succession

  • despite its prior knowledge.

  • The Godfather glides along its 3 hours run time.

  • there's not a single moment where the film loses its grip.

  • There's not a single unnecessary scene.

  • Not one unnecessary shot.

  • You can never say you understood every character's thought process

  • because so much of the conversation happens just by a look.

  • Even almost half the century later,

  • The Godfather still resonates with people.

  • Because we relate to the troubled Bonasera in need of a father figure to get him justice.

  • We share the same family values Vito advocates

  • Like Michael,

  • we also have shared the same kind of relation with our father.

  • We also value loyalty as much as Michael does

  • Like the Corleone family,

  • we all have grown up in a patriarchal hierarchy.

  • And for better or worse,

  • we all have to make sacrifices for our family.

  • All these characters reside in us.

  • They all represent part of us.

  • The all hold a mirror in front of us,

  • revealing a truth that we thought was buried in our conscience.

  • The Godfather offers you a chance to explore your family values

  • against your moral values.

  • And to be honest,

  • it is an offer you shouldn't refuse.

The opening shot of Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 classic

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ゴッドファーザー|継承の悲劇 (The Godfather | The Tragedy of Succession)

  • 135 5
    chialn に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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