Micro- Analysis of a film extract: ‘The Godfather’ (Editing and Sound)
Scene: “The Baptism.”
From the novel adaptation, created by Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppala’s: The Godfather is one of cinema’s greatest films and also apart of one of cinemas greatest sagas. One of the scenes that makes it so great, is the famous climatic scene, “The Baptism”. Here, we see Michael Corleone getting baptised along with his sister’s (Connie) four -month old baby whom, Michael is also about to become Godfather. As we see them both receiving their receiving their sacraments, we see events unfolding which is the order, made by Michael, which is to eliminate the leader of each of the five rival families in New York. In this piece I will be analysing the use of editing and sound techniques, features that were used by Coppola to make this scene so integral within this film’s narrative.
At the start of the ‘Baptism Scene’, we have a long shot of the entire Corleone Family as they gather inside the church. There is soft diegetic music coming from the church organs, signifying a calm and peaceful day for the family. This also refers various religious connotations because of their pride in devoting themselves to religion, which is within the Catholic Church. This faith creates a contrast between the peaceful surroundings of the church and the violence we are about to see within the upcoming scenes. At this moment, we also hear the sound of the baby crying which is louder than the background music, which again, refers back to the contrast of the two events, which are about to unfold.
Next we then see a variety of medium shots involving the catholic priests, Kay, holding Connie’s baby as they all wait for the service to begin. Within the next shot, we see a man putting a gun together whilst we hear the priest talking over the scene and again the use of the organs in the background can still be heard. The organ music then becomes lower throughout the next few scenes starting with the tracking shot on Peter Clemenza, who is carrying a suspicious square shaped package towards his car. We then see a fast paced cut onto a man disguised as a policemen, which was preparing his gun in his room, with a significant close up on the gun. The sound of the church organs highlights the stark difference between the peaceful baptism and the consuming darkness of preparing for a murder, which is obviously a sin, especially within the Catholic Church. We then cut back into the church, but this time we notice that the organ music has gone back to it’s calm, soothing original state, suggesting that the low-key sound of the organ is indeed a proleptic device.
We start to see close ups of Connie’s baby and panning shots of the priest’s hand as he marks the holy cross on the baby’s head in holy water. The priest is then preparing the baby to be accepted by God, which determines the fact that the Corleone Family have a deep faith within their religion. In the next shot we see a barber who is also preparing a man, but this time in the form of having a shave. The idea that we cut to this man suggest that he is linked to the man with the gun in the previous scene, suggesting that he, too, is about to deceive God because of his bleak, murderous intentions.
The man in the barbers is also looking back and to at his watch, showing his anxiety as well as his readiness to perform his duty. Another cut and we notice yet another enforcer, with a suitcase in a hotel room. We then cut back to the church with a panning shot on the priest’s hands as he baptises the baby. From then on we have another long shot of the congregation and then another brief close up of the baby, one on Michael, a mid-shot on Kay and the priest and then finally again with another close up on Michael. This can suggest that the fast cutting on the characters signifies the wellbeing of the Corleone Family because we notice an stern facial expression on Michael meaning that he is showing the early signs of becoming a ruthless leader.
The fast pace of editing continues, when we cut back from the enforcer disguised as a policemen, to Clemenza, but this time we see him through a mid shot climbing up a set stairs with the same suspicious package whilst wiping away sweat from his brow suggesting that he may be nervous about committing the murders. This is followed by a long shot of the priest gesturing the cross with his hands whilst Michael is seen with the same facial expression of being stone-faced. Michael then faces the hollowing question, “Michael, do you believe in God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth?” In which Michael replies, “ I do?” At that moment we see Barzini, the leader of one of the families, walking down a corridor slowly as he reaches the exit of a public building, starting with an extreme long shot. Barzini, assumed by Michael, is the main plotter of the ordered assassination on his brother Santino. This whole order, by Michael, is based upon his brother’s death acting out in pure vengeance despite the fact that he isn’t performing the actual killings of the leaders of the five families. It is a statement of power and also how power itself has now consumed Michael.
The shot of Barzini in the corridor still includes the low organ music, again creating suspense amongst the audience, making us want to know how the leaders are killed and also how this grand scheme will work. The priest is also speaking within the background of this shot asking Michael, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the son of our Lord? And do you believe in the Holy Ghost of the Catholic Church?” In which Michael replies again with, “ I do.”
The disguised policemen/enforcer through a mid-shot, is knocking on a window of Barzini’s chauffeur’s car telling him to move. (The priest at this stage is preaching in Italian which is dubbed over the visuals we see). Peter Clemenza, at this point, through a close up, is still climbing up the set of stairs whilst two enforcers are preparing for a killing in a motel room. (Next door to one of the leaders). The music from the church organs appear to be getting louder, still creating suspense. The enforcer in the barbers is leaving whilst lighting a cigarette, showing that he is feeling stressed about the whole situation of following Michael’s order. There is another cut to the church, as we see another close up of the baby and a long shot of the congregation, but we hear the soft organ music mixing in with the low organ music which is symbolizing that good things are happening in the church whilst there are bad things occurring outside of the ceremony.
We are now reaching the climatic scene/s as we see Barzini going down the stairs outside to find that the car he owns is getting a parking ticket by the disguised policemen, this is also creating a restrictive narrative because we know who the policemen is but Barzini obviously does not. The sound of the baby crying symbolizes despair and chaos and possibly pain which links to the atmosphere surrounding the order, the leader’s and of course Michael’s own personal feelings. However, while we hear the sound of the baby crying, the low music coming from the organ has slowly lowered, giving the shot a dull, eerie silence, which creates that sense of anxiety yet makes us want to know more. This is a great editing technique used by Francis Ford Coppola in terms of how he has chosen to alter various diegetic sounds to create, in effect, pathetic fallacy within the sequence.
The enforcer who was last at the barbers is still smoking his cigarette as he reaches a set of stairs. Peter Clemenza is seen reaching the top of his set of stairs still carrying the mysterious package, showing signs of relief that he can now proceed with the killing. We then cut to a shot of Moe Green, who has links to the Tataglia Family and has also disrespected Michael back in Las Vegas at his brother’s Casino. In this shot we see Green getting a massage. Another cut is used back to a close-up of the baby as the priest asks Michael a series of religious questions such as, “Michael, do you renounce Satan?” Michael then replies, “ I do renounce him.” This symbolizes immense irony as we see within the next shot/s the murders of the heads of the five rival families abruptly commence.
We now experience some signs of parallel action used by Coppola, between the baptism and the murders. At this shot we now hear an uproar of the church organs as we see Clemenza trap one of the leaders in an elevator as he kicks him back and then whips off the packaging to be a double barrel shotgun in which he shoots him twice. Michael is then seen back in the church with his eyes glaring which could mean that he is in deep thought, of the task he has assigned, which makes him totally disregard any thoughts concerning the baptism.
The second time he replies to the priest saying, “I do renounce him.” Michael is shown as sincere to his renouncement of Satan, however the audience knows of his apparent satanic side, highlighting an omniscient narrative viewpoint used by the director. We then see another enforcer entering the massage parlour, Moe Green is then seen putting on his glasses in wonder of who it is, but unfortunately for Green he has now payed dearly for his disrespect towards Michael and is then shot in the eye through one of the lenses of his glasses with the loud organs as it crescendos within this shot. This is again followed by another close up on Michael, showing that each time we see a killing, we immediately know who its refers to because of the use of close ups on Michael. Another enforcer is seen putting out his cigarette and showing that he is ready and then climbs up the stairs. The next shot we see is a glimpse of a rival leader exiting the same building but the enforcer immediately traps him within the revolving doors in which the enforcer shoots him 4 times through the glass with crimson red blood splattering against the glass.
We see another cut to Michael while the organ has stopped as he says, “I do renounce him.” Immediately after, we cut back again to the enforcers who then burst in on a leader as he is in bed with his presumed mistress in which they also shoot them both numerous times with their automated weapons. Michael again answering, “I do renounce him.” ends with the last leader who is about to suffer the same fate as the other rival leaders, which is of course Barzini. The disguised enforcer first shoots Barzini’s chauffeur and bodyguard and then finally shoots Barzini twice in the back as the church organs roar in a climatic finish to the order. This also shows that the “state of equilibrium”, has been restored because Michael’s act of revenge is now complete and he has now avenged his brother’s death. While doing this Michael is expressing towards us that he becoming a lot more ruthless and has now shown his acceptance of his new Godfather status in his own unique way. He also proves that by committing this act, he will be a lot different from his father Don Vito Corleone. Michael has now brought numerous opportunities for other criminals to bring wreak havoc upon his family, inevitably compromising their safety, something that his father would never of done.
This scene is then ends when the priest asks Michael his final question, “Michael, will you be baptised? Michael then replies, “I will.”. To the audience, he is showing that he is relieving himself of his sins, making him feel as if his faith in his religion has saved him from death himself. Coppola then dramatically ends this scene with a series of shots of the bodies of the leaders which shows that the director has used montage editing, which is that these killings have occurred simultaneously, creating a highly different contrast faith in religion within the baptism ceremony and the frantic, violent murders of the heads of the five families within what is one of the greatest sequences in cinematic history within one of cinema’s iconic pieces of film; Francis Ford Coppola’s,