The Godfather (1972) is a one of a kind movie; it is even considered by many an American classic. The American Film Institute (AFI) has The Godfather listed at number two in 2008 as one of the greatest films in American culture today. This movie has everything from great action scenes to world famous actors. This movie stars Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, and James Cann among many others. The Godfather portrays one major theme throughout the entire movie and that is violence. Almost every scene in this movie is either a shot of actual violence accruing or the audience sees some of the characters talking about violence. However, it is the violence in this movie that makes it the classic it is today.
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The opening scene in The Godfather is of man pleading with Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) to hurt some men out of justice for his daughter. This man tells his story of his daughter being taken advantage of by some young men and it is indicated to the audience that this man’s daughter was raped. This opening scene is dark with very little light shown which sets the mood for the entire movie. The audience gets the sense right away the Don Corleone holds the power to make things happen such as justice and make people pay for the wrong they have caused. After what seems to be an eternity Don Corleone grants the man his wish to bring justice to his daughter but in exchange Don Corleone tells the man that one day in the future he will call upon him for a favor. It is here in this scene that we see that Don Corleone is in charge and that violence is the reoccurring theme in the entire movie.
The next scene is of a singer Johnny Fontane (Al Martino) which happens to be Don Corleone’s godson. Johnny is there to ask the “Godfather” for his help in landing a lead role in an upcoming movie. Johnny believes that if he gets this role it will help boost his career and stardom again. With this request Corleone sends his adopted son Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) to California to make the director of the movie cast Johnny. After the director refuses to cast Johnny, Tom Hagen cuts the head off the director’s favorite horse and puts it in the director’s bed while he is sleeping. We assume that after this violence occurs the director casts Johnny in his movie. When the camera shoots to the director in bed there is a lot of blood and the audience actually gets to see a severed horse head. This is scene is very gruesome and realistic. After this scene it is clear that if the Corleone family doesn’t get or hear what they want that they will use any action to make their needs met. This scene is used to show the power the Corleone family holds throughout the country. Again violence was the main objective in this scene.
In the upcoming scenes in The Godfather are some of the most important events in the movie because these events are what lead to the continuation of the movie. When Hagen returns from California, the entire Corleone entourage goes to a very important meeting where they meet up with a man named Virgil Sollozzo (Al Lettieri.) Sollozzo wants Corleone’s corporation in protecting the rival Tattaglia family because of their interest in getting started in trafficking heroin. Coreleone refuses to help because he believes that getting involved with narcotics will destroy his political connections and his reputation. After this meeting Corleone becomes very concerned and sends one of his biggest men, Luca Brasi (Lenny Montana) to check in with Sollozzo to see what he is up to but while Brasi is there he is stabbed in the hand and is beaten to death. Again, we see violence used as a way to get things done. Brasi is killed because Sollozzo is being set up. It comes as a shock to the audience because in this scene all of the characters are standing calmly talking to one another when all of a sudden a man takes a knife and stabs Brasi hand into the counter top. The audience gets to experience the entirety of how horrific it is for Brasi because the camera is focused on Brasi hand when the knife goes through it. In this scene it is clear that other families have efficient ways of handling business. It seems as though there is a competition between the different families and who ever can do the most damage is the family who holds the most power.
The next major, important scene is where Corleone is shopping in an outdoor market, purchasing fruit. Corleone has his back towards the camera and the audience feels that something bad is about to happen. Moments later the camera shows men running towards Corleone with guns pointed toward him. These men start shooting Corleone until he falls to the ground. These men shot Corleone because he refused Sollozzo’s offer. At the same time Corleone is being shot, Sollozzo captures Hagen and tries to convince him to tell Corleone’s oldest son Sonny (James Cann) to take the offer. This is one of the less graphic scene’s the audience gets to experience, this is probably done discretely because it represents the respect people hold for Corleone. Here, the audience experiences more of an emotional effect when Corleone is shot. Even though he is a mob boss the audience has learned to except and like Corleone and to see him shot causes sadness. There is hope for us that he is okay and that becomes a relief.
The youngest son out of the Corleone family is Micheal (Al Pacino) who is a war hero and is assumed to not follow in the family mob business. This all changes though when Michael goes to visit his father in the hospital and realizes that there is a set up occurring in an attempt to try and kill his father for a second time. When Micheal stops the murder attempt, a corrupt police caption name McCluskey (Sterling Hayden) breaks his jaw out of frustration. Sonny then retaliates by killing Tattaglia’s son. This is almost another touching scene because we see how emotional Corleone son’s are towards their father. The audience really starts to see the meaning of family and how strong their bond is. Michael is really starts to be seen here because he steps up and keeps his cool unlike his brother Sonny. This family is willing to do anything to keep each other together and safe.
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After Michael gets his jaw broken there is a fire inside of him that is initiated and he wants to seek revenge not only for himself but also for the attempt on his father’s life. With that being said he meets Sollozzo and McCluskey at a small Italian restaurant to settle and end this dispute. Halfway through the meal Michael asks to use the bathroom; in the bathroom Michal has planted a gun so he could kill Solozzo and McCuskey. As Michael returns to the table we hear the sound of a subway train which is loud and very squeaky and this sound contradicts the calm movement and expression on Michael’s face. Because of the harsh sound of the subway and Michaels cool attitude the audience knows something bad is about to happen. Then all of sudden Micheal pulls out the gun and shots Sollozzo and McCluskey it the head. At this point the audience starts to notice the strength of violence in this film but it is done in almost a tasteful way. There is never a crime committed in this movie that isn’t done without purpose and deep thought. Every murder is thought out and planned carefully. The mafia business is scary to the audience but for these characters it is everyday business that they have to take care of.
Even though there is a great deal of violence in this movie and around the corner of every scene there seems to be a murder or crime being committed there is something else the audience gets to experience and that is the strength of family unity. The Corleone family has a very strong bond and will do anything to keep the family safe and together. We especially see this when Sonny gets a phone call from his sister Connie (Talia Shire.) Connie proceeds to tell Sonny that she is being abused by her husband Carlo (Gianni Russo.) With this news Sonny goes and beats up Carlo and warns him that if he touches his sister again he will kill Carlo. Just as the audience expected Carlo beats Connie again and so now Sonny goes to kill him but while Sonny is at a toll booth he is ambushed and shot to death but the other rival families.
The last major scene that involves violence is at the very end of the film. The scene starts with christening of Connie’s baby where Michael is to assume role of the godfather to the child. As the christening proceeds has planned the assassination of the murder for each the heads of the rival families. While the audience sees shots of the christening taking place there is also scene shots of the murders of the heads of the family. Each head is shot to death and this shows the power Michael has now. Michael can be doing some completely different but has the control to handle business while doing something so pure, such as being at a christening. There is great irony in that. It shows the value of family but also how the family business will take over Michael’s life. Michael, as much as his father had tried to steer Michael away from the family business is now clearly the new leader and assumes all the responsibility that his father had.
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