Analyses of "Godfather" and "Apocalypse"
Now Godfather and Apocalypse Now, both are great movies, and both are the first windows, through which I first saw America. At the first sight, these two movies seem to have a lot of similarities: both are one of the best hits in history, both starred by Marlon Brando and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, both slow-paced and 3-hour long, and both had a deep influence in the American society.
On the other hand, two movies have so little in common: one is talking about the Mafia in New York, yet the other is demonstrating the wars in the Indo-China Peninsula; one is completely rational and calm, where the old Don hearing that his son was killed, just showed his grief for one second and then turned to business, yet the other went to another extreme, showing an entire insane world, where men were either mad or going mad.
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However, if we examine the two movies carefully and only grasp the kernel, we’ll find that both movies are actually between two men Don Vito Corleone and his counterpart in the other film Colonel Kurtz, who are both strong in mind, worshipped by people and is the center of power in his world, Thus, both movies together, the Godfather Wen 2 and Apocalypse Now are demonstrating a two-man world, filled with philosophy, wisdom and a strong will. Let’s look at the Godfather, Don Vito Corleone first.
Don Corleone appeared at the very start of the film, which was the wedding party of Don’s daughter Coney, and the beginning scenes already fully demonstrated the Godfather’s high and divine place. As Sicilians never refused any requests on a wedding day, many people came to the Godfather for “justice”, one of whom was Bonasera, an Italian-American undertaker. The film started by his famous line, “I believe in America”, at which time the screen was still dark; then his face and forehead appeared on the screen, and he continued “America has made my fortune”.
However, America failed to give him justice: His daughter was beaten to disfigurement and almost raped but the suspects only received a suspended sentence. Thus he came to Godfather, who was awed y because of not only his personally charm but also influence and deterrence. Interesting the reply of the Godfather was that he didn’t agree or decline at the beginning, but he began to mock that Bonasera never treated him as a friend and never invited him to cafe. Sadly, the obtuse Bonasera didn’t get Godfather’s message, and proposed that he could pay money.
Then the Godfather had implicitly pointed out:”If you'd come to me in friendship, then the scum that ruined your daughter would be suffering this very day…... ” Then the most interesting scene comes: When Bonasera tentatively asked “be my friend”, Godfather did not answer and was just casually looking around; Finally Bonasera realized what he should do: he then bowed, kissed Corleone’s hand and called him “godfather”. And Corleone replied with “Good”, which was enough to bring justice to this Wen 3 poor undertaker.
From the dialogue above, it is not hard to get the implicit message from the Godfather, that though he was asking people to come in “friendship” and to treat him to a cafe just like a friend, he did not really want to people do so; Every action he did and every word he spoke was suggesting that they did not deserve to call him “Corleone”, instead they should call him “Godfather” and bow and kiss his hand. It is this kind of worship, that though he stays close to you, he is always overlooking at you and that though he never forces you to do anything, he just makes you fear.
Colonel Kurtz, also portrayed by Marlon Brando, built a similar worship in the other movie Apocalypse Now. Opposite from the Godfather, Colonel Kurtz did not appear until the last part of the movie. His image, however, has been impenetrate through the movie, though is vague most of the time. In this 3-hour-22-minute film, the first 2 hours and 28 minutes was used to describe Willard’s journey up the Nung River from Saigon to the remote Cambodia jungle, in which we only knew that Colonel Kurtz was probably mad and built a so-called colony. However, the feeling of madness and fear was augmenting among Willard’s team.
They lost two men and became so nervous that they shot to the innocents. They saw the soldiers along the river losing control and going mad and finally they went mad themselves: Lance painted him with powders and did yoga anomicly. In such condition, they reached their final destination. On the fog-wreathed water, a group of people with mysteriously painted faces disciplinarily lined up in the river-boat; and half-naked corpses were hanged on the trees by the river. With the cryptic background music, the one-minute-long scene for the first time portrayed the colony that Colonel Kurtz had built.
People seemed to be submissive and unconscious and an atmosphere of fear and sacred was in every corner. Though Colonel Kurtz still did not show up, he had brought an inenarrable horror to everyone, as Willard described: “Everything I saw told me that Kurtz had gone insane. The place was full of bodies - North Vietnamese, Vietcong, Cambodians. If I was still alive, it was because he wanted me that way. ” What a power Kurtz had put on this land. Then appeared the photojournalist, who being a big fan of Colonel Kurtz, crazy himself and hanging 4 cameras on his neck. Through his word, we knew Kurtz’s social standing here. Very cool…Very cool…But he can be friendly””You don’t judge him””He’s gone to the jungle. He disappears with his people. He forgets himself for his people”. Colonel Kurtz was worshipped by the people here; he was their god and mainstay for their lives. He received the same kind of worship as the Godfather and they both demonstrated the same power which is a combination of personal charm and strength, making people coming to them, bowing their backs and bending their knees, without pushing them. They were just like producing a magnetic field around them, separating them from others and making them divine.
They were both calm and did not talk too much, because they expected others to get the message from their eyesight and even from any tiny actions of them. And when it comes to a time they had to show their strength, they were still calm and elegant. The Godfather sent Tom Hagen to Hollywood to get his godson Johnny Fontane the leading role of a film. The director Jack Woltz, who was also powerful and even had dinner with the president, obviously did not regard this as a matter and arrogantly rebuked Tom Hagen’s proposal. Tom left peacefully for “Mr. Corleone is a man who insists on hearing bad Wen 5 news immediately”. But in the next morning, he found the decapitated head of his beloved stud horse in his bed with him. And a week later, Johnny called back to say that he got this role. Godfather himself even didn’t appear in this event, but his great power could be felt. Even fewer scenes were in Apocalypse Now to directly demonstrate the power of Colonel Kurtz, except one midnight Colonel Kurtz grasped the Chef’s (who had been with Willard through the journey) head and silently put it between Willard’s two legs. Willard then woke up and screamed. For the first time in the movie, Willard showed some kind of fear and horror. Colonel Kurtz calmly watched him and walked away. Even without word, Kurtz let Willard know that if anyone was alive it was because that he let him alive and that if he was killed it was because that he let him to be killed. Generally speaking, two films demonstrate the main characters’ power in an indirect way, most from the third person’s angle, partly because that their power was too overwhelm to depict directly.
Their power and worship received is essentially the same. Just as I have mentioned above, both are due to their personal character and magnet. However, some people may say that these two characters are essentially different, because Godfather is extremely rational but Colonel Kurtz is always characterized by the word “mad” or “insane”. This reasoning is not true. Colonel Kurtz is not that a mad man that you usually see in an asylum. He knows what he is doing and his logic is clear. And most important, he has his own philosophy, such as what he told Willard “We must kill them.
We must incinerate them. Pig after pig. Cow after cow. Village after village. Army after army. And they call me an assassin. What do you call it when the assassins accuse the assassin? Wen 6 They lie. They lie, and we have to be merciful, for those who lie. Those nabobs. I hate them. I do hate them. ” People in the movie say that he is insane because they do not understand his philosophy and the way he speaks: most of the time, he seems to be like talking to himself. He is really in his own spiritual world. But isn’t the Godfather?
Don Corleone also has his own view of the world and is stick to it, such as “be close to your friend but closer to your enemy” and “Women and children can be careless, but not men...... ” He is so stick to his own value that he refused to get involved into the narcotics business, which resulted in big trouble, and he also conceals himself in his own world by saying “Never tell anyone outside the Family what you are thinking. ” On the other hand, the Godfather and Colonel Kurtz are indeed different. Though with equal power and intelligence, Godfather seems to live in happiness while Kurtz in great pain.
The last word of Godfather is “The world is so beautiful”, but the last word of Kurtz is the famous “The horror…The horror…” Then what is it that causes such a difference? The journalist gave one answer, “He’s clear in mind, but mad in soul”. And my answer is “the family”. Fighting away from home, Colonel Kurtz got no support from family, where everyone truly loved him. From his letter to his son (“I'm afraid that both you and your mother would have been worried for not hearing from me these past weeks. But my situation here has become a difficult one. I've been officially accused of murder by the Army.
The alleged victims were four Vietnamese double agents. We spent months uncovering and accumulating evidence. When absolute proof was completed, we acted, we acted like soldiers. The charges Wen 7 are unjustified, and his conversation to Willard (“I worry that my son might not understand what I've tried to be. And if I were to be killed, Willard, I would want someone to go to my home and tell my son everything – everything I did, everything you saw…Willard, you will do this for me”) we can derive that he received unjustified charges in military but his wife and son did not understand him.
Then he gradually isolated himself and escaped to this little-known place and ruined it. Alone and lonely, great pain he suffered and finally went insane. The Godfather, however, has always been putting the family at the first place, just as he said “If you never spend time with your family, you would never be a man”. He detested any disloyalty to the family and asked his sons to stick to this rule. He had a wonderful and happy family himself. He died when playing with his grandson, and found “the world is so beautiful”.
In conclusion, both Don Corleone and Colonel Kurtz are great man, who are powerful and influencing people around them in a special way. They both have their own philosophy and spiritual word. They are quite similar in many ways except that the Godfather has a happy family, which makes their lives ending in so different ways.
- Godfather. Dir. Francis Ford Coppola. Perf. Marlon Brando and Al Pacino. Paramount Pictures, 1972. DVD.
- Apocalypse Now (Redux version). Dir. Francis Ford Coppola. Perf. Marlon Brando and Martin Sheen. United Artists, 2001. DVD.
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