The Godfather: a review
I couldn’t wait more to analyze “The Godfather”, an American masterpiece directed by Francis Ford Coppola, originally based on the Italian novel “Il padrino” by Mario Puzo.
This film, recognized by the critics for its value as a crime story, is in my opinion even more interesting for its historical likelihood and for the representation of certain Italian values and traditions typical of every Italian family, not just of criminal organisations, and still important in Italy.
The Godfather is set in America and partly in Sicily between the 30s and the 60s and tells the story of an Italian-American family, guided by the boss Don Vito Corleone, which is part of the American Mafia. Through the film, Don Vito find himself in different situations, whose importance lies more in the possibility to show how the American Mafia is organised and works rather than in the prosecution of the story.
This film finds its unique atmosphere in the ability of recreating the structure of the criminal “family” as well as in giving the sense of fear we might prove being in presence of the boss and the other members of the hierarchy; Other narrative elements that contribute to construct this atmosphere are the violence, the blood and the criminal acts, the sense of fellowship between the members of the group, the respect of the Italian traditions, the love for the children and the women of the family or vice versa the difference of social relevance between men and women, and the relations between different powerful families.
The relationship between the family and the other Italians living in the suburb is represented since the very beginning, when the camera offers in the first shot a close up on a man asking a favor to Don Corleone: this sets the whole sense of the film on the values of respect, reliability and thrust, underlining that, inside the family, decisions are made also from an emotional perspective, basing on the importance of relationships, favors and on the kept of the promises made.
There are also some visual and sonorous elements used to represent the sensations given by world: the language, a mix between Italian and English, sometimes Sicilian dialect, especially when Michael goes back to Italy, is perfect to show how the old generations of Italian immigrants tried to communicate with a weird accent and mixed words from English and Italian. The chiaro scuro contrasts and the strong difference of light between outdoor and indoor scenes , the smoke of cigars and cigarettes, the saturated warm lights paint in the spectator’s mind and image quite typical of the gangster’s and noir’s film, where long moments of silence, reflection and tension create the drama of the story and increase the sense of mystery.
Moreover, the possibility to understand the mentality of that world is given by the representation of a whole series of ideals ( like a unique sense of justice, religion and values, the maintenance by Don Vito of a serious, balanced and quiet personality to show himself as a man of integrity), and of idealistic men (as the mobster, the Italian immigrant, the “pater familias”, the Italian farmer versus the Americanized Italian).
Finally, the beauty of the traditional South Italian dresses, dances and music, the baptisms ,the marriages, the births and the deaths ,the food and the objects inside the houses compose a painting of extreme precision and reality about Italian traditions and social values, that give even more richness to the story.
Despite the Hollywood school is generally recognized as a “money machine”, with great productions and spectacular stories, this film is and will always be a masterpiece in cinema history, for its relevance in terms of historical representation as well as creative fiction, accordingly the unique style of Coppola.