It might be cliché by now to admit that The Godfather changed my life, but it truly did change my perspective on the possibilities of cinema. At a very young age, I constantly looked forward to going to the movie theatre. I vividly remember being terrified but thrilled by the realistic dinosaurs of Jurassic Park and losing count to the amount of times I would go see the original Star Wars trilogy when they were re-released in theatres during the 90s. It was a wonderful time to be enthralled by the blockbusters when I hadn’t even turned 10 years old yet.
Shortly after the 90s turned into the 2000s, I finally got the chance to see this film that I had heard mentioned countless amounts of times in my household: The Godfather. Living in an Italian household made this film sound like it was the answer to what it meant to be Italian. That sounds completely ridiculous but I ended up finding a lot to appreciate about my background from the film – something that reinforced my upbringing as a young teen.
I constantly overheard conversations about the sudden bursts of violence in the film, the realistic portrayal of an Italian wedding, and the mystery of the character Don Corleone. I didn’t care that the film was almost three hours long; knowing this only made the possibilities grander of what could be contained within.
Extreme violence and R-rated movies were especially rare and frowned upon in my family and the only link to seeing them was found within this old wooden container of VHS tapes that my Dad kept in his home office. The day I randomly came across this container enacted this feeling that I felt must have been the same reaction Indiana Jones had when he lifted the relic from its pedestal. I hadn’t heard of many of the films inside as I read the titles over the rectangular boxes: The Warriors, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, etc., etc. I was surprised the massive rolling boulder hadn’t come rolling after me yet as I finally laid eyes on The Godfather.
I grew up in an era where films were mainly spread through word of mouth and could really only be found within the wonderful walls of a video rental store. It was exciting to come across a film you only knew existed from tidbits of information and glimpsing the VHS box from the same said rental shops.
To finally lay eyes on The Godfather instigated my desire to watch it even more. I did the only sensible thing somebody would do upon opening Pandora’s box – close it and ask everybody about the contents inside. For a few days following my discovery, I always brought up the film during family dinners, family get-togethers and at school with friends. Finally, perhaps through my endless curiosity, my Dad asked one Sunday evening if I wanted to watch The Godfather.
Upon my first viewing of The Godfather, I surely did not absorb and understand everything but what I was sure of was how brilliant it was. I understood now why it had such adoration from my Dad, whom was the main person to introduce me to so many great films at a young age. The characterization was so deep as everyone in the film was so flawed but confident with his or her actions. The music painted this beautiful picture of epic proportions. The pacing was unlike anything I had seen before; the writing was masterful as the film lead towards the deaths of characters that felt so operatic and emotional. And then, when the credits rolled, my Dad said: “So, if you’re up for it, we can watch Part II next week?”
I could go on and on about the life changing experience but truly, upon this screening of a VHS copy of The Godfather (over the course of two VHS tapes!) I knew that a passion buried inside me was about to break out. The film implored me to expand my horizons on cinema, tackling as many classics and underground films as I could get my hands on. The road towards studying film had been paved and I have never really looked back since.