Monday, April 25, 2011

Shots and Editing in The Godfather Trilogy

Editing may be thought of as the coordination of one shot with the next. A shot is one or more exposed frames in a series on a continuous length of film stock.  There are many different ways to edit a shot. Francis Coppola uses many different types of shots and editing styles throughout The Godfather Trilogy.
There are several differences in editing between the first and second film in the trilogy. The Godfather uses more of a continuous action throughout the film. The events occur in the sequence that they occur. From the opening scene at the wedding to the end when Michael arrives in Las Vegas, the scenes in The Godfather occur in chronological order. The plot of the film is about the transfer of power from Vito to Michael. Within that transfer, the viewer also sees the development of Michael from a boy to a man. Another editing technique used in the film is the flash-forward, or moving from present to a future event and then returns to the present. In one scene, Vito talks with Tom and Sonny about their upcoming meeting with another gangster. As the three men talk during the present, shots of them are combined with shots of them in the meeting with the other gangster in the future. It ends with Vito announcing that he will not allow the family to be involved in any type of drug trade. Another scene that uses combined shots is the famous baptism scene. It shows Michael participating in the baptism and combines shots of the war that he is waging against other gangsters.
The second film in the trilogy alternates between two separate narratives throughout the film. One narrative tells of Vito’s life and the other narrative tells of Michael’s struggle to escape his father’s reputation. The narrative of Vito’s life is prequel to the first film and the narrative of Michael’s struggle is a sequel to the first film. The underlying meaning of the two separate narratives is how the past affects the present. It explains how Vito became involved in mafia in the first place. The editing in the film allows the viewer to compare the two men. The viewer is allowed to make his or her own assumptions about Michael and Vito.  The second film also uses montage. Montage emphasizes relationships between shots and the association of images to create ideas not present in either shot by itself.

Braudy, L. (1986). The sacrements of genre: Cappola, depalma, scorsese. Film quaterly , 39 (3), 17-28.

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