The Godfather by Mario Puzo has a large critical and commercial success because of an entertaining and extraordinary plot, dramatic dynamics and balanced intellectuality. The readers become ingrained in American culture and Puzo’s characters from the criminal world. The Godfather movie release of 1972 appeared at a right moment because of the global events of 1960s and final demise of the Hollywood production cod. Hence, the audience demanded assassinations and criminal actions on the screen. The current paper will analyze the relation between the given movie and modern American concerns such as broken belief in American dream, social otherness, authority tights and tragic conversion of sincere Americans into Mafiosi.
General Arguments about the Relation of Film to Modernity
Francis Ford Coppola interpreted and created a visual criminal novel by Mario Puzo, following the author’s style, epoch tendencies and heroes casting approach. The result was a public recognition of The Godfather as the highest grossing film about gangsters. Such a genre has always been highly estimated in Hollywood. In his movie, America is a bright land of freedom, progress and terrifying corruption. The corrupted policemen, judges, politicians and their servants possess all the power. The debauched Hollywood producer Jack Woltz, criminal bodyguard and police captain Mark McCluskey, casino owner Moe Greene and even senator of Nevada Pat Geary are all trying to become rich. According to Sutton and Wogan, “This film deals with capitalism and family life, placing it in a long tradition of gangster’s films that focus on the vexing relationship between the individual and American society (23).
The first argument is that both modern and filmed America is a land where every man stands for himself, which is embodied in Amerigo Bonasera. The conflicts should be resolved according to strict legacy, when no additional conditions can influence justice. The victims of the established system do not have objective standards that would apply to equal price and/or punishment for committed crime. When people do not believe in legal justice, they apply to the criminals, who have more brevity to equal revenge. In The Godfather movie, the tool of justice is Vito Corleone.
Amerigo Bonasera believes in American power and has a strong will to be a perfect citizen of his country (he even did not support communication with Corleone before). Due to this, the second argument in favor of the relation to American modern concerns is that Bonasera supports modern American way of upbringing used on his daughter. He did not ask questions when “she started to date with a young man”, who was not even Italian senator’s son, because the daughter has a chance to choose her beloved person by herself Coppola n. p.). After the young man and his friends made an attempt to rape her and then beat cruelly, Bonasera ran to the police first searching justice. However, in the movie, Bonasera’s dream is destroyed: “They went free that very day”, but his daughter “will never be beautiful again” (Coppola). Corleone explains the reason why Bonasera contacted the police first, but not to his son’s godfather Vito: “You found America a paradise… After all, the police guarded you, there were courts of law” (Coppola). In this phrase Corleone reveals the sense of the American justice and awakes everybody’s “own reverse culture shock” (Suton, Wogan 2).
Another argumentative person representing corrupted and violated justice of America is the police captain McCluskey. According to the movie, he is involved in corruption schemes: “I know my business” (Coppola). When Michael Corleone kills him, his criminal connections become publically exposed. Hence, the social leaders and law defenders depend on each other in terms of the way the society cannot see first. Tom Hagen warns Sonny Corleone that killing the untouched police captain will shake the whole social order “with the newspapers, the whole police department, the churches, everything” (Coppola n. p.). The author briefly provides an argument that the one who leads the structure keeping all in singularity leads the society.
The third argument is that the American society image is tented, so that the country exists as the competitive area between traditional community concerns and corporate modern society. In the beginning of the movie, Corleone family escapes into the Old World binding every member in family, nationality and friendship bonds. In the context of modern concerns, “The Godfather” has strong ethnic semiotics. According to Chris Messenger, the attention was paid to the presentation of “governing social situations” and “the code” that express an individual's “public utterance and social script” (62). For stronger interpretation of ethnic script, Coppola used the scene of celebration of Connie Corleone’s and Carlo Rizzi’s wedding as a parenthetic scene. The events develop with the traditional Italian music sounding on the background, as well as singing and dancing of the invited guests. The Old World traditions are evident in every detail: Nazorine, the neighbor baker, presented his fabulous cake on the wedding as an act of thanking to Don Corleone for his past favors. Sonny Corleone dares to insult the police officer present at the wedding because they are dependent on Corleone’s family. The politicians and judges who could not be present at the wedding sent rich presents and letters with congratulations and apology for their absence. Moreover, some guests came to the celebration (where the police officers were present) on rented cars with the impossibly traced license numbers.
Depiction of the Main Issues in the Film Characters
The movie The Godfather represents society with tightened bonds, eternal loyalty and mutual obligations between friends. The audience can see it starting from the first dialogue when Corleone says: “Someday, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do me a service in return” (Coppola). The plot required the creation of the controversial (in many aspects) image, but the family problem was related only to Vito Corleone and his sons: “A man who doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man” (Coppola). In his world, connections mean more than anything else, because they are the key to power.
Another valuable argument about modern American concerns in the movie is in Michael Corleone’s image. The role of Al Pacino was particularly difficult – Don Corleone’s blood son is Michael Corleone. At the beginning of the story Mike has disavowed traditional empathy and adopted the American lifestyle being a student and military officer during the war. He was dating with Kay Adams who was the Baptist minister’s daughter working as a schoolteacher and having high moral principles: “Your father must be a warmhearted person”, she said about Don Corleone at the beginning (Coppola). Michael convinces Kay: “It’s my family…”, but “It is not me” (Coppola). After the attack on Corleone, Michael’s blood revenge and exile in Sicily fastened Mike’s conversion into Mafiosi. Consequently, there is another argument concerning the modern American concerns in the movie: loss of pride of being an American. Tom Hagen repeats the phrase that is frequently used to prove the criminals’ canon: “This is business. Not personal” (Coppola). Mike’s involvement into the world of mafia is the gravest tragedy of the movie: he decided not to become American, but to lead his family as an excluded part of society. Evidently, David Sutton and Peter Wogan mentioned: “With our discussion of “The Godfather”, we focus on a seemingly insignificant detail, expanding the discussion to include larger questions of the filmic representation of Otherness” (19). Hence, he breaks the values and accepts the concept that only force and power as the tools of crime can rule the world to achieve justice.
Another argument to the issue of modern American concerns in the movie is related to Kay’s parents who are vigilant about their daughter, but still rely on her own decision about Michael. Just like Michael in fatal times, Kay betrays her own moral concerns and converts into Mafiosi’s sincere wife. The evidence is about Kay’s “personalized system of values that transcends” based on her conversion to Catholicism so she could attend the church mess and pray for her husband’s son (Suton, Wogan 41). “Michael’s mother did the same to Don Vito, hence, this ceremony becomes legacy in Corleone’s family”.
The next argument of the connection between the film and modern American concerns is that people always need a hero, who will go against the established order and establish other rules. The Corleones follow this challenge trying to create the law of their own. This can be proved by the fact that Sonny and Michael decide to kill Sollozzo and McCluskey despite certain prejudice and negative consequences. Nevertheless, trying to rule their own destiny, Corleones lose their money, business and friendship to powerful persons. However, the movie shows a typical American faith in utopia, because the family neither resolves the problems of their own, nor of their friends. The wars between families happen “every five or ten years”, hence, the peace is a temporary period when the clans gather their power, influence and search for new victims.
The screened novel The Godfather of 1972 became a high-rate gangster drama as a response to the auditory requests to show assassinations and cruelty. There are few arguments that prove relevance of the movie to modern American concerns such as family values, national idea, personal principles and systematic ties. The producer briefly shows the tragedy of conversion of a typical American into criminal, who cannot find justice in his own country, but has a will to follow his own laws. Hence, the main issue is related to the American national self-burning, which has no start and no end.