I’ve loved Mario Puzo’s Godfather (and the later books) for years now but never watched Coppola’s films- a jinx, I say, because strange things have happened each time I tried to watch– situations outside my control and inexplicable too– but this post isn’t about the why I didn’t watch Godfather. (Thanks, S!)
After a lovely breakfast, we settled down to watch this epic film. I had of course, seen clippings and knew the story, but the cinematic experience was a different one. Memories of summer afternoons spent reading, came back and I enjoyed the film immensely. But the Godfather isn’t about just the storyline or the epic dialogues or the “messages” and the glimpses of the dark side. It’s about people, how they deal with each other and themselves. If you were a character, who would you be? Flippantly, I thought I’d be the Godfather- knowing fully well I had neither the stability nor the stomach for the ruthless, strategies that the Godfather needed.
A poignant conversation of the Godfather is when Don Vito tells Micheal that he was hoping Micheal would be a Senator or even the President- a shade of hope and faith in the ‘American Dream’ and a voice of conscience, with Vito’s role as the head of the Underworld. Micheal shrugs it off, but there is the acknowledgement of crime, of wrongdoing.
There are many problems with Godfather- the marginalisation of women, for example, or how they are triggers of violence and action but are most replaceable and almost totally powerless. That, of course is another blogpost.
In You’ve Got Mail, Tom Hanks tells Meg Ryan that everything you need to know about conducting a business can be learned from the Godfather. Whether it’s about going to the mattresses or making offers, the Godfather teaches you lessons in thinking, strategy and planning. But what it also distinguishes, is between business and what is personal. This separation, I’m uncomfortable with, because, at some level, business is personal, just as much as it is political. I am not sure I can see how the two are separated, or that you can get away with saying it isn’t personal! You take your views, ideology, value systems into your business, so how does business separate from the personal?
We spent a couple of hours talking about life, choices, communication, all drawing from both experiences and the film we’d watched. We thought about work, about partners, ambition and interpersonal relationships. We talked about the past and the future. We laughed, bantered and agreed/ disagreed on many issues. The Godfather brought out something true from within- the nature of people, and how they stand up to pressure, when the give in and at what point does the prodigal return.
On the (long) drive home, in a haze of fatigue and restlessness, I thought about consequences. If I had to take one thing away from the film, it would be to dwell on consequences, of actions, thoughts and inaction. Consequences that we can predict and most of all, the ones that we didn’t anticipate. The way, an action, a sentence, even a gesture can bring a very carefully constructed world crashing down.