Godfather Scene Analysis

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Will Marsh

The Godfather Scene Analysis

The scene I am analyzing is from The Godfather.  It occurs about halfway through the film, when Michael murders rival gangster Tattaglia and his police captain ally in an Italian restaurant.  Since they know he will be searched for weapons prior to the meeting, Michael’s family has hidden a gun in the bathroom of the restaurant so he can retrieve it during the meal and do the deed.  I will begin as he enters the bathroom.

The camera is situated in a stall at a slightly high angle, with the bottom of the frame obscured by one of two swinging wooden doors.  Michael enters the bathroom and passes through both doors.  The audience only gets a glimpse at his face as he does so; it is obscured by the doors and his arm when he opens the inner one.  This is a recurring motif throughout the film.  Michael is often shot facing away from the camera or with his face somehow obscured.  This serves to limit the intimacy of the audience’s relationship with him and reflect his cold, business-like personality.

As he enters the stall, the camera pans right to follow him.  It stops directly behind him as he begins searching behind a rectangular fixture on the wall for the gun that is hidden there.  As he searches, he turns so that the left side of his face appears in profile.  The left (or sinister, from the Italian) side of his face is swollen and slightly bruised because the captain at the table broke his jaw in an earlier scene.  The injury has caused his cheek to swell and speech to slur, which makes him look and sound more like his father, the Don of the Corleone crime family.  It is appropriate that the audience can only see his “gangster” side as he prepares to commit the first act in his life of crime.

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The film then cuts to a straight-angle shot of the two men sitting at the table.  They are both faced away from the camera, which placed near the entrance to the bathroom, so that they are unaware of the danger that is growing in that direction.  After a moment, however, the captain glances toward the camera, reminding the audience that they will quickly grow suspicious if Michael does not return.

The shot then returns to the bathroom, where Michael is searching more frantically for the gun with his back to the camera.  He stops, and slowly brings the ...

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