The success of ‘The Godfather’ is undoubtedly in its realism. Francis Ford Coppola serves the audience an authentic slice of a time, place and culture. Perhaps his most effective method of doing this is in his use of voices.
Follow me as I attempt to find new things to analyse in one of the most praised and discussed movies of all time.
Voices are key in this film. The soundtrack is the most important voice of all. The iconic theme rings out even before the story has began, while the screen is still black. The title flashes up before the screen is left in the black once again. The emptiness is interrupted by the sound of a plea from Amerigo.
This shows us that the score has a voice just as the characters do. It is the voice of the time, perhaps the deceased, Coppola let’s it weave the story for him.
The director takes an almost passive approach in all facets of his role. Coppola allows the scenes to breath and that makes for the raw and organic feel. The framing is very deliberate, it can tell us a lot about the situation but beyond that he allows the moment to take shape.
For instance, the wedding scene involves hundreds of extras but he barely arranges them. The attendees of the reception are all doing different things: wandering around, chatting, dancing, exactly what they would be in that situation.
Meanwhile, deals are being struck and intrigue is afoot. This makes for that feeling of a microcosm. Everyone has their own role in this little world.
Another instance of Coppola’s passive directing style is the famous horse’s head scene. The music builds the moment but when Woltz discovers the horse’s head, it draws back. He is left screaming into cold silence, it is uncomfortably raw.
The pacing can dip at times, making it feel like a trek somewhat. However, that is almost part of the activity. It needs to be long because it is a journey through the bloody history of a literal war.
‘The Godfather’ is not the kind of film you can just put on for a relaxing movie night. It is a sensational piece of cinema and an essential watch but you have to do some leg work. If you do, it is an extremely rewarding experience.