The Godfather: Cinema Analysis
The movie The Godfather was directed by Francis Ford Coppola in 1972. Most experts have recognized this film as the classics of the world cinema. This paper discusses the scenes, in which the director reveals the issue of the connection between the past and the present in the mafia world. Another aim of the essay is to demonstrate the differences and similarities between the two characters of the film, Vito and Michael Corleone. There are certain definitive characteristics that have had an impact on the relationships between the father and the son.
The Connection between the Old and the New Worlds in the Cinema
The theme of confrontation between the old and the new worlds plays a vital role in the story. In general, it is possible to distinguish two main concepts that the director reflected in the film and which are immediately available to the viewer: the concept of the Corleone’s family values and the concept of the mafia war between the major families of America. Concerning the concept of mafia war, the director constantly points to the dramatic changes that have occurred in the criminal world of America. The reluctance of some mobsters, including Corleone, to change the structure of their businesses leads to the carnage inside the criminal world.
The cause of antagonism between the major families of America in the film is the reluctance of the Corleone family to engage in drug trafficking in the U.S. During a meeting with a key dealer, Virgil Sollozzo, named “Turk,” Vito Corleone refuses to use his political influence to protect the drug trade. At the same time, the Corleone family understands that the drug trade will begin a new era into the U.S. illegal business. Talking about the drugs’ importance as a source of income, Tom Hagen states that if the Corleone “does not get a piece of that action, we’ll lose everything we have” (Coppola, 1972, 00:35:45-00:36:00). Their opponents will earn vast capital by drug trafficking and gain control that is Corleone’s at the moment. Nevertheless, Don Vito Corleone does not want to become involved in the drug trade. His answer has less to do with the legal risks of the event but more with the certain concepts of cooperation between the criminal world and the state. During the meeting with other mafia families, Vito says that the drug trade will not be appreciated by his friends in the government (Coppola, 1972, 02:08:15-02:09:15).
One more argument for the presence of differences in the understanding of the issue of drug trafficking between Corleone and other families is the scene of the dialog between Michael Corleone and Virgil Sollozzo, just before Michael kills him. Sollozzo assures Michael that he is sorry that the situation develops this way. According to him, the main issue is that Michael’s father, Vito, does not understand the changes that occurred in the U.S. and its mafia world (Coppola, 1972, 01:25:00-01:25:45).
Another example, which describes the connection between the past and the present, is the dialogue scene with Michael Corleone and Peter Clemenza. Before sending Michael to a meeting with a drug dealer, Clemenza mentions that the mafia war occurs every 5-10 years (Coppola, 1972, 01:17:00-01:17:30). Compared to the earlier example, the cinema’s scenario does not suggest any serious changes in the criminal world. The war for the redistribution of spheres of influence in illegal business has always been part of the mafia’s life.
One more scene demonstrates considerable semantic load from the point of comparison of the old and new world. Visiting Michael Corleone at his villa in Sicily, Don Tommasino complained about the contemporary youth and its lack of respect for the old traditions (Coppola, 1972, 02:04:00-02:05:00). Though it seems to be a minor remark, it definitely characterizes the new characteristics of the criminal environment compared to its earlier state.
The Similarities and Differences between Vito and Michael Corleone
Considering the specific traits of Vito and Michael Corleone, it is necessary to emphasize that these persons have a greater number of similarities than anyone else in the film. Michael’s behavior reminds Vito’s more than those of his brothers. Compared to Santino Corleone, Michael is less impulsive and more sensible. Michael is also more independent and resolute than his brother Alfredo. The director had definitely succeeded in presenting a character that would be able to inherit Don’s business.
The main common feature of Vito and Michael is that both of them are ready to take any measures required to safeguard the family. Though Michael does not want to take part in his relatives’ affairs, after the attack on his father, he immediately decides to defend the family and act expectedly trying to complete the task. At first, no one believed in his ability to seize power (Coppola, 1972, 01:14:00-01:15:30), but he fulfilled his potential eventually. Vito is the same: he dedicated all his life to maintaining and strengthening his family.
At the same time, both Vito and Michael are very smart and reasonable leaders who can correctly determine effective strategies depending on their position. For example, Michael correctly identified the need to justify the mafia in the media after the murder of a police officer (Coppola, 1972, 01:15:00-01:16:00). He did not rush into battle with other families like Santino but correctly defined the time for waiting to strike. Vito could also build effective plans of survival in the unstable world of the American mafia. Though most of the film’s audience probably expected him to start a bloody war after Santino’s death, he did not let emotions override his reason and acted wisely by agreeing to a truce with the enemy. Later Michael had his revenge when no one expected it eliminating all family competition and ensuring its safety.
On the other hand, there are differences between Vito and Michael. First, Michael did not initially appreciate his father’s work. Talking to his girlfriend, Kay, at the beginning of the film, he said that he did not like his family’s methods, but it was still his family and he loved those people (Coppola, 1972, 00:20:00-00:22:00). Thus, he leaves an impression of the person who would not be engaged in criminal activity. He is a former military man mostly raised in the American tradition. This fact defines his character as a law-abiding and honest man. Therefore, after he becomes a leader of his family, he still thinks about the legalization of his family’s business. Talking to Kay after his return from Sicily, he said that he would like to legalize the family’s activity in 5 years (Coppola, 1972, 01:14:00-01:16:30). In contrast, though Vito did not transgress the line of the law defined by his companions in the government, he never mentioned the legalization of the family’s activity.
Moreover, Michael Corleone appears to the viewer as a more determined man than his father. For example, when the external conditions require a more active interference, he removes Tom Hagen from the post of the advisor despite the fact that Hagen has been the chief adviser of Don Vito Corleone for many years. Though it was a serious step that could affect their relations, Vito does not oppose this decision. He recognizes the primacy of his son (Coppola, 1972, 02:18:00-02:19:30). Such fact can be explained by the weakening of Vito’s grip because of his age. Sollozzo indicates it in a conversation with Tom Hagen. He stated that the current position of the Corleone family was not possible 10 years earlier and explains it with the weakening of Vito’s power (Coppola, 1972, 00:50:00-00:51:30). In such conditions, Michael fits the requirements for the mafia family leader better.
The diversity of issues and concepts addressed in The Godfather determines its status of the classics of the world cinema. Evidently, there are a number of episodes that describe the conflict between the old and new times in the U.S. mafia. The changes in the structure of illegal business deeply affect the state of mafia world. These changes are reflected in Vito and Michael who have more in common than any other characters in this story. Despite being different, their similarities resulted in the nomination of Michael as Vito’s heir in the family.