Simple and decipherable on the surface of plot, story and character, The Godfather is enough of an epic to find meaning multifariously, and, in the name of the medium of film, visually. Borne of the great decade of 1970s American film, it’s a classic in its own right which nonetheless has a tendency to bathe in its own teary eyed emotion, not to mention the psychological effigy of the Don himself, unconsciously idolized the world over by materialistic power mongers. Yet despite this it exudes genuine pathos. In its complete form as a two part superepic, it stands tall as a poignant rumination on the heavy cloud of sin.
In one sense, it’s the simple story of a man’s inheritance of the family business, the power that comes with it, the weight of responsibility and hard decisions, and how he proves his worth by making these without hesitation, all in good business sense. When these decisions include the bloodletting of the opposition against the dying wishes of the original godfather, resulting in the beginning of the downfall of an empire, we move, or so it seems, into the realm of tragedy.
It’s tempting to ascribe to the ultimate meaning the neat, enlightening resolutions of the denouement. The empire, you see, is a corrupt hypocrisy, and so are the relationships built thereupon. But then we knew this from the start, even if we’re manipulated by the simplistic formula of mixed feelings of empathy toward criminals who are actually the good guys because they have families like us who are oppressed by the real criminals (government). What we take home from part one of the Godfather, then, is the locker of Pandora’s box closing on the outsider who simultaneously wants to know what’s inside, yet cannot bare to face the possibility of guilt by association. By the time the climactic sequences of part two are excised, Zeus is in throes of regret, and the box were it personified would curse existence itself.