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 70s of American film, it’s a classic in it’s 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 the money hungry. Yet despite this, it exudes genuine pathos. The Godfather, in its complete form of a superepic of two parts, can stand on its own as a poignant, if nonetheless lengthy, 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 with criminals who are actually the good guys because they have families like us (and besides, by 1970, even the children are no longer innocent). 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.