Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Godfather

The Godfather theme song is just as memorable as the movie. Once you’ve seen this movie, within three seconds of hearing the song you can identify the movie and the feelings you felt when you watched it. When I hear the song, it reminds me of how much I love this movie. This movie is amazing. Not only does the American Film Institute list it as the #2 greatest movie of all time, but also the music is just as amazing. Nino Rota, the composer, won several Oscars for the music in this film as well as The Godfather Part II. The song and its variation of instruments convey specific emotions that Nino Rota wanted you to feel. This song can make you feel sympathetic for the Don or thrilled by his revenge. This soundtrack easily earns three out of three tickets.

The scene where Michael Corleone goes to visit is father at the hospital is the turning point of the movie. Though the scene seems nonessential to the plot of the movie at the time, the music sets the tone for how important this scene really is. Majority of The Godfather is strictly dialogue and through the movie several minutes can pass before any music is played. There are defined musical themes for the characters. The song most associated with Don Corleone is The Godfather theme song. The song sounds like an Italian folk melody but is unique to The Godfather trilogy; it also alludes to the fact that this is a Sicilian family. What is unique about this particular theme song is the fact that is played differently throughout the movie. In times of happiness it is played by trumpets, making it to sound like an elegant waltz. But, in moments of horror like when the movie producer wakes up with a horse head in his bed, the song sounds like a distorted carousel tune. This famous tune is so versatile in this movie but always represents the association of Don Corleone. In Understanding Movies, Giannetti explains the goal of this: “Characterization can be suggested through musical motifs” (Giannetti 216).  By giving the Don and Michael their own musical motifs, it helps define their characters.

At the beginning of the movie, it is known that Michael Corleone, the son of Don Vito Corleone, wants no part of the family business. After an assassination attempt on his father, Michael goes to visit him in the hospital. When he enters the hospital he sees his father was left unattended. The orchestra and piano play a tension-building tune that puts viewers on edge. With the music and Michael’s concerned conversation with the nurse, it seems that another assassination attempt is imminent. As Michael rushes to move his father to a hidden room, his theme music is playing as well as the tension building music. The music affects the pathos in this film and immediately connects Michael Corleone’s emotions to the audience’s. There is a point of time where no music is played while Michael talks with his father. He simply tells him that he “is with him.” After Michael speaks, The Godfather theme music is played. The timing of this song indicates that Michael has decided to join the family business. Had The Godfather theme song not been played, this conversation would seem like a normal conversation between father and son. The timing also foreshadows that this theme song will eventually be used to represent Michael, the new Don. The importance of this conversation is highlighted by the meaningful Godfather theme song. In Everything’s an Argument, Lunsford correctly states, “You may sometimes want to use emotions to connect with readers to assure them that you understand their experiences. Such a bridge is especially important when you’re writing about matters that readers regard as sensitive” (Lunsford 33). In this scene, the music is a bridge connecting the actors’ emotions to the audience’s emotions.

Another scene where the music perfectly fits Michael Corleone’s emotions is the scene where his godson is baptized. This is the most gripping scene of the entire movie. There is this great juxtaposition between a beautiful scene at the church with Bach organ music playing and the systematic assassinations of Michael’s enemies and rivals. If you’re not a fan of violence, you should probably avoid the linked clip. Technically, Michael is the bad guy. He made plans to kill several people while he was in church. But, the music tells us that we should be rooting for him. The organ music plays each time someone is killed, making it feel like an accomplishment yet it is still horrifying. Because of the strong pathos in this film as well as its music, viewers find themselves rooting for the bad guys. The music and both mentioned scenes set the tone for the ending of the movie and The Godfather Part II.

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