Defending the Indefensible: The Godfather Part III
Last week at work we all sat to watch Boris Johnson make his latest announcement in the commons. When he uttered the words restrictions and six months, I started channelling Al Pacino from Godfather part 3 in a big way.
There was this….
But mainly this…..
The rest of this post isn’t about Coronavirus or restrictions, working in the news and talking about it for eight hours a day, five days a week for six months is exhausting.
As I sent memes of me channelling Al Pacino to my friends, I started thinking about Godfather part III and how much people hate it.
I’ve been a Godfather devotee since the age of 17, I remember my then boss reverently handing over his VHS boxset for me to borrow, when another lad bellowed “Don’t bother with the third it’s rubbish”. Actually, I think he used a word stronger than rubbish.
It’s an accusation levelled at this film constantly…
“It’s nowhere near as good”.
“Should’ve stopped at part II”.
I couldn’t understand why you wouldn’t want to see how the trilogy ended – you’ve already given it 6 hours and ten minutes, what’s another 2 hours and fifty minutes?
Then I watched it.
Why all the hate? I couldn’t understand it, I loved it. I’ve since defended it to anyone who slates it.
Okay, there are a few questionable performances, the relationship between Mary and Vincent is ick – especially as they insist on calling each other ‘cuz’. The feel of it is a bit different and it can feel a bit confusing in places but ignore all that and look at it as a fitting end for Michael’s character arc.
THERE ARE SPOILERS FROM HERE ON IN, SO THIS IS YOUR CHANCE TO STOP READING
The Godfather is all about Michael’s journey, he’s a pretty tragic bloke. Yes, I know he’s a pretty ruthless killer, bit of a cold-hearted bastard at times but actually, it’s quite clear early on that he doesn’t want this life, which is why how it ends is pretty perfect.
A brief flip through the first six hours. Michael is the youngest son of mafia boss Vito Corleone. An idealistic soldier who wants nothing to do with the family business:
“That’s my family Kay, it’s not me”.
In fact, he goes to extreme measures to avoid the family business signing up and joining the marines, he only steps up when a rival tries to kill his father, devising a plan and carrying out the assassination. He might hate the business, but he loves his family and loves his father, his entire life is altered at that point.
He becomes completely cold, his control distances him from any passion or emotion or guilt and he has a lot to feel guilty about….
- Agreeing to be Godfather to his sister’s child while plotting to have her husband killed – one of the greatest pieces of cinematography in film history – “Do you renounce Satan?” “I do”.
- Giving the order to have his brother, Fredo, killed at his own mother’s funeral while pretending to forgive him – how can anyone not to be chilled by that.
None of that guilt shows itself until part III.
Part III is set 22 years after the second, Michael is trying to rebuild his relationship with his now adult children and ex-wife, Kay. He’s desperate to be a legitimate businessman. He’s that desperate to prove to that he’s good, he’s accepting a Papal honour; but we soon see that he’s consumed with guilt over his previous actions especially having his brother bumped off.
In his desperation he confesses his sins, something he admits ‘it’s been so long’:
Michael: “I ordered the death of my brother. I killed my mother’s child. I killed my father’s child”. (The Godfather)
And this is where part III is perfect, Michael has made so many people suffer, he has to feel the same suffering. The things he’s done in the past result in him suffering the biggest tragedy imaginable; the death of his daughter, Mary, who is shot instead of him.
When Francis Ford Coppola was discussing the end of the trilogy the possibility of simply shooting Michael was raised, however, that would be an easy death for Michael, he had to have his life shattered before dying:
“Simply shooting Michael would not be a justified death for him; I felt that he still really had to pay for his past. The killing of his daughter is something that would haunt Michael until his last breath” (Francis Ford Coppola, The Making of The Godfather)
And let’s be honest, that scene and Al Pacino’s howl, is that of a wounded man (I think I made a similar sound when restrictions and six months were mentioned). Give the man all the Oscars!
Michael dies alone in Sicily, obviously eating an orange symbolism fans. He dies remembering dancing with the women he loved, Apollonia, Kay and his Mary.
That’s why you can’t leave the Godfather at Part II, you can’t leave Michael’s story with him sat alone by a lake, brooding, reminiscing about the old days, having just had his brother killed; he’s got to pay his dues and he’s got suffer.
I’ll even put up with Mary and Vincent calling each other ‘cuz’ and their really ick relationship for the overall ending and you should too.
Don’t write it off because everyone seems to think it’s awful. Al Pacino is his magnificent self and puts in a cracking performance, the music is exquisite. The story comes full circle and I promise, it isn’t as bad as I guarantee you’ve been told.
Now, seeing as it looks as though I’m about to end up with a load of time on my hands, I may as well look at killing 9 hours with three of the greatest films ever made which are my personal favourites.
radiosarahc View All
Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm
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