The Godfather: Part II

The Godfather: Part II ★★★★★

My cinematic year ends with a film I've seen once when cinema became more to me but never again. I'm not sure if I had expectations but I'm slowly starting to see why some would call these the greatest films ever made even if I think that is somewhat big exaggeration. But great films they definitely are, open a little bit more the more you grow and I think the true test of maturity with these films is how you see it. Back when I saw it, I was 15 or 16, it was all atmospheric and "cool" - so many awesome lines to quote, so many unforgettable moments. But now at the age of 20, I see a deeply tormenting picture about a man whose life is a mess and who follows blindly some kind of ideal that doesn't exist anywhere but in the romantic novels or some kind of "made-up man image". It's a film about masculinity, about being a man but deep down there is fear of "what if I'm not good enough" - too many expectations like the end illustratively sums it up. A life that is "bigger" or "lesser" than you are and when treated as "bigger than you", somehow one becomes lesser and lesser. In cinema some would probably call this "The Film" about power. I think that dramatically and psychologically this is stronger than the first part because it has more time to focus or rather it knows when and how to focus. We see Michael becoming more and more obnoxious as the world around him collapses, him being unable to take a hold of it.

And even if some would consider The Godfather: Part II unbearable because of the little action that women have here, it is precisely the point. It is a portrait of patriarchal settings. This is nicely highlighted in the character of Kay. She stays on the background, we basically forget that she exists, we become one with the head of the family, we become concerned of the family business and ironically we forget the one thing Vito Corleone always reminded: man is nothing without his family. Kay's burst is example of some of the finest acting in the whole film and its impact is especially strong because we realize how we have forgotten her. And whereas Michael tries pathetically to "be the man" and belittle Kay's ideals compared to his, defend himself, the viewer suddenly washes up against him. This is the man we've been following? And once again it highlights in the infamous ending where even brother doesn't mean anything to Michael besides his empire and the big ideals that, in his mind, belong to it.

Michael never falls, he wins but still he loses everything. The story of Michael Corleone might be one of the saddest stories of wealth ever told in the epitome of capitalistic cinema, Hollywood. But instead of going downright mad or dying, he has to live with his actions and he has to live with the imaginary ideals he creates himself. He has to live under the shadow of his father which he will never be able to reach. In a way he is abandoned by his family even though he is the one to blame. The Myshkin-esque character of Fredo only makes it all the more cruel - the true idiot sits on the throne with his crimes, believing firmly to something that doesn't exist except that in his mind. Michael Corleone is the predecessor of Brando's Colonel Kurtz even if in Apocalypse Now Coppola abandons calculating form and creates chaos. Under the cool surface and colors of The Godfather, lies deeply human struggle that the greatest poets have tried to reason for centuries.

Happy New Year!