film studies

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Baptism Scene In The Godfather Film Studies Essay

Editing takes considerable part of “Baptism” scene at the end of the Godfather film. When spectators watch a film, they may not be aware of the editing parts because generally they do not know about real function of editing. However, they can easily notice if there is shift from one scene to another which provides continuity as well as captivating rhythm in film. When a film editor works on the parts of movie, he or she should know exact story to tell or create great editing. He should know which part comes first or what adds more beauty to the scene with cutting for continuity. It is editor’s job to fascinate the spectators to recreate poorly photographed scenes or less inspired performances that the spectators should never notice these faults.

The Baptism Scene starts after the death of Don Corleone who is Godfather of the godchild in baptism scene. Right after Corleone’s funeral, film continues with Baptism scene which shows that there is an editing in this part of the film which is also called cross-cutting. Cross-cutting means quickly switch to from one or more parts to another actions representing all together at the same time (Giannetti, 2008). Also, editor should keep these actions logical while shortening the scenes by crosscutting.

William Reynolds, and Peter Zinner, the two editors of Godfather film do great editing during “Baptism and Murder” scenes. After Don Corleone dies because of natural reasons, it is obvious that “Barzini family” which is one of the four Mafia families plans taking power and control from the Corleones. However, in this scene, Michael shows that there is still someone in the charge of family. The scene is also called “Baptism and Murder” because at the same time Michael Corleone’s men kill his enemies while the Baptism of Michael’s nephew happens. Right after Corleone’s funeral, the editors continue with Baptism scene to show Corleones family has still a leader in charge that is Michael who establishes himself as head of family to attend Baptism and to be a godfather of his nephew. A Godparent is someone who sponsors a child’s baptism who is called as godchild - godson, or goddaughter - in many sectarian of Christianity. In this scene, the godfather is Michael. Audiences can realize that the camera stays fixed with close-ups or medium shots for emotional emphasis especially on Michael or on baby. In church, mostly close shots take place, and in outside, medium shots appear during murder scenes (Giannetti, 2008). Francis Ford Coppola wants to show the complex situation of Michael’s character by cross-cutting between two scenes that have absolutely different missions such as while one is holy; the other one is for worldly goods.

The Baptism scene begins in a church in which the Baptist speaks in Latin but when he asks questions to Michael, he speaks in English and Michael gives answer consciously. Using two languages draw attention to Michael’s awareness of what is being in the church even though his mind is still what is going on outside. Also, when baby cries, his sound fills all the church which shows how badly the murder action is. Moreover, the questions of priest are extra hints and best points in this scene for audiences to notice who is in the charge of murdering. When the Baptist asks Michael if he always rejects the Satan, Michael says, “Yes” however the scene switches to killing action. Audiences can see influential and heightened use of visuals with editing. The usage of different languages and emphatic instrumental music adds remarkable size to edited parts.

Furthermore, the religious imagery in the Baptism scene is also juxtaposed such as the image of naïve baby is being washed from brutality, harm, guilt of his godfather’s world which is shown right after each purification part in the church. Both scenes happen at the same time. For example, when the priest prepares the godchild for baptism, the killers prepare themselves and guns for murders. Later when priest asks question of Satan, the killing starts and with each question, murder scene becomes worse. At the end, when the baptism finishes, killing finishes too. In fact, when Michael and everyone leave the church, killers leave the scene simultaneously. Right after that someone comes to inform Michael about killing is over.

The editing creates flow in every scenes, and a chain occurs between scenes to provide the continuity. The scene can be shown as a series of acting, however, it is editor’s job to help the audience to understand the meaning of each edited parts and how long the audience should think about divided but meaningful parts. In one sense, the editor wants to experiment of audiences’ imagination because in reality, they will never be able to combine any scenes happening at the same time as in “Baptism and Murder” scene or shorten any event that will occur or occurred in the past. The brain will struggle to combine and to understand each edited and separated scenes because human brain selects the necessary parts for the person to understand the event. However, how wider the scene, there would be that much misunderstanding or more struggling. If the gap between scenes is too wide, combining the ideas would be harder; therefore, the audiences can lose their attention to film. If the gap between edited scenes is not wide, the audiences even do not notice the editing, because all scenes juxtapose simultaneously.

In conclusion, the editing as in the Baptism scene at the end of the Godfather should make a point while presenting each shot. The editors can make audiences laugh, cry, and think but they also make them care about what is being shot. To do this, they should feel empathy to understand the situation of audiences. They should think to gather a heart and a soul of human being from his or her ashes. I , as an audience, feel that we accepts editing in films even very quick cross-cutting because it gives the sense of dreams as they always look like juxtaposed of some scenes which we try to combine the meaning of them.

Answer to Second Essay Question - The Godfather’s Opening Scene (1972)

The Godfather (1972), Francis Ford Coppola’s Academy-Award winning film, received the Best Actor (Marlon Brando), Best Picture, and Best Adapted Screenplay awards. It has been in the lists of the greatest films ever directed. Furthermore, The Godfather II received important praise from critics, and like the first movie, the second one received the Oscar for Best Picture (Citron, 2010). The film’s scenario was taken from Mario Puzo’s novel with the same title (The Godfather).

One of the impressive scenes of the film is the opening scene which had a profound affect on me and made me watch the movie till the end. The opening scene starts with a close-up shot of Bonasera's face who tells the story about his daughter. She was assaulted and beaten by her American boyfriend and his friend who were released without going to jail. Begging Don Corleone, Bonasera now pleads for justice. The angle is in eye-level shot and it gives the sense of the actor talking to spectators because he starts saying, “I believe in America. America has made my fortune. And I raised my daughter in the American fashion. I gave her freedom but I taught her never to dishonor her family…” It is very usual to think this way as in the documentaries. However, later when the camera moves backward with slow zoom, we can see the pleading actor better, and we give the scene a different meaning with slight and slow hints revealing other people in the darkened room. Here, we can observe fast stock usage to give a sense of realistic or documentary films. “Gordon Willis take pictures of the Godfather who is famous for his low-level lighting magic. (Giannetti, 2008.) ” The lighting emphasizes the dishonesty of this dark life.

First we see a hand of a person to whom Bonesara talks and when he starts crying we see a hand coming out of the darkness which gives him a glass of whisky. The director shows the significance of the character from the darkness which triggers the mystery of the character and creates questions in the spectators’ minds about what he might be thinking. (Phillips, 2004).

Once the backward zooming ends we can see Don Corleone inside the frame but from his back. The zooming progresses so slowly that we can observe and absorb easily what is happening in the scene. This slow and long zoom is controlled with a computer zoom lens which was designed by Tony Karp. In the opening scene, the pleading actor’s face fills the whole frame which shows us the significance of the actor. However later, when the camera zooms back slowly we notice another character (Don Corleone) in the frame who has more importance because both characters become smaller till one hand of Don Corleone fills the foreground in the frame. Moreover, we realize the importance of Don Corleone from Bonasera’s pleading and asking for justice from him. This scene would be impossible to shoot with other zoom controls because of its slow motion and the lens position. When a moving scene is shot from one point to another, the director or cinematographer should manage the speed of the lens and where to put the lens which is the angle of the camera. However, when it is done with computer, it becomes easier. The director should only analyze where to place the lens during the scene. Then he or she should enter the start and end points to the computer, and determine how many minutes the scene should take between two points. Later, the computer will figure out the right position for the lens. The director should only enter the required information into the computer.

In addition to actors, camera movement, and lighting, the sound and dialogues are also important elements for the opening scene of The Godfather. Before the scene appears, the film starts with an instrumental song. It gives the sense of mystery, concern, fear, loneliness, and therefore we realize all dark sides of life which is shown in the film from the very beginning with its soundtrack to furnish the Mafia movie. At the beginning of the scene, when Bonasera talks about what happened to his daughter, other actors listen to make audiences wonder about what the other character thinks. Later, when he talks, the audience can examine the significance of the characters from their dialogues because Don Corleone humiliates Bonasera with his words saying, “You come to me, asking for justice but without respect and you even do not call me Godfather. You come to my home and asking to murder someone in return of money.” Here, the audience might think Corleone humiliates the poor father but as their dialogue continues it shows that the Godfather only wants justice even if he kills someone it is only for justice. Another important aspect in this scene is that by emphasizing the right words while talking, the dialogues become more meaningful. For example, Corleone, emphasizes his importance saying, “Why did you go to the police? Why didn't you come to me first?” First he tells police and then emphasizes himself more to show Bonasera that what he did was wrong. Also, to deepen the attention to his words, Corleone sometimes coughs intentionally, or waits for a moment to take a deep breath and then talks. The dialogues might be as simple as in daily life, however, the dramatic situation of the film adds more influential meaning to the scene as in my example above about asking for justice to Corleone.

In conclusion, the mise en scene is very important in this movie to create and display the life of Mafia which is displayed as convenient as possible with very deep focused details. For example, at the beginning of the film, when Bonasera cries, someone gives him a glass of whisky rather then water or tissue. This shows how detailed the director thought about the lives of Mafias. The idea is to appease the character’s temper and this idea is used in some other parts too, with same reason. Furthermore, A mafia father's role who always protects his family from everything and displays strict ruling with his charisma is also one of the effective ways of this film.


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