Let’s start by introducing one of the most acclaimed films ever made. Ranked second on IMDb’s ‘Top Movies’ ever, ‘The Godfather’ is a must-watch for any movie lover. Conveniently enough, there are some absolutely beautifully shot scenes in the film, too - even for a film released nearly 50 years ago. However, today we are going to look at perhaps the most iconic scene from the film and one of the most iconic stills ever in movie history.
After only recently watching this film for the first time (simply for finding a day where I can sit for 3 hours and focus solely on the film has been a difficult task), I have discovered a new found love for gangster/ mafia type movies. I watch the occasional one, and after reviewing ‘The Irishman’ way back when, this is actually the first I have watched of this sort since. I say this with a whole heart, and every inch of me believes this, it was worth the wait. It is definitely a very long film and one many may struggle to enjoy because of this, but just look at this still. How can anyone not find this interesting? I’ll let Millie dissect all the camera tech stuff, but I am going to set off of that in correlation to both the film and the significance.
For sure, this is one of the most talked-about films ever, but it isn’t perfect. However, its cultural significance certainly has inspired so many film lovers to actually love film. I get why so many turn to this when they say that they realised how important film is to them after seeing this. The acting, the directing, the everything really. I must admit that I believe Al Pacino is even better than Marlon Brando in this, but when Pacino ventures to Sicily, that is some of his finest acting. However, Marlon Brando as the Godfather, Don Vito Corleone, performs perhaps his best piece ever. The character is intimidating, calm, poised, and calculated. This description would almost match entirely that of Heath Ledger’s Joker - that’s the level of insanely good we’re talking about. Vito is the centrepiece for the vast majority of the film and this scene encapsulates the entirety of his entity and presence. In particular, the highlighting of his character in the darkroom suggests something more about him and the Corleone family.
ICONIC. TIMELESS. POWERFUL. All these words can without hesitation be attached to this scene and rightly so. I watched this film a few years back and I still can vividly recall the scene in which we are reviewing today. As Jack has said, I am, as always going to be looking at the still from a photography perspective. First up. Lighting. It makes a lot of sense, given the story and the reason for being in the office why the shot would appear to have minimal lighting. It not only adds to the character persona, but it creates an almost unspoken dialogue. Imagine if the camera rolled into the shot, and the office was well lit up – it wouldn’t feel as intimidating as it does. Limited light works extremely well.
Just look at that! How crisp is the detail for showing the clarity of Vito’s face? It shows everything, the way he is an open-book character. A very trusting and calm nature to his person is perceived here simply through the lighting. It shows us everything we need to know about Don Corleone before he has even spoken a word. I. LOVE. THIS. The presence of Corleone is shown here and it speaks volumes. Even the red rose in his suit jacket’s pocket, placing the symbolism of blood close to his heart. His family are his business and the opposite side to blood is something quite the more sinister. However, trying to keep it spoiler-free is ridiculously hard with this. There is so much to say from just this still.
Following on from Jack’s comment, the detail that is captured of Vito’s face is wonderful; it almost looks like an oil painting. The shade covering one side of his face is not a hindrance, but more of wonderful use of playing with light. We can make out the facial features, and it shows emotion. This image is beyond impressive. You could look at this image for a good while and continue to find details that add to the impressive foundation that it already has. Yet, after looking at this image, I cannot help but every time be drawn to the rose on Vito’s tuxedo. I am a BIG FAN of using flowers within photography – often they add an uplifting, colourful and light addition to an image. However, I don’t feel the flower is intended to bring an uplifting or colourful addition to the image. To me, it’s a statement of power – I come to this conclusion based on the colour contrasts. In colour psychology, red can be associated with power and dominance – everything that Don Vito Corleone is. Against a black tux – it only amplifies its association. Considering it is his daughter’s wedding day – red seems a powerful colour to wear. The rose is an extension of his personality and in the case of Corleone works tremendously.
Before I hand it back to Jack – I wanted to draw light to the character placement in the image. Whether you have seen the trilogy of films or not, it doesn’t take much to know that Don Vito Corleone is the BOSS. Looking at the still, placement of Vito’s hand, his expression, the fact he has someone telling him something, yet remains seated is a big indication to the power and respect that he has. The still continues to tell a story, even when there is no narrative to tell.
I think, all in all, ‘The Godfather’ certainly deserves its title of being one of the very best films ever made. It is absolutely incredible and I can’t wait to watch Part 2. I imagine it’s just as good, if not better, but this alone is near perfect, especially for the time.