I am not sure if I am exaggerating when I say I have seen the Godfather a thousand times, but I feel like I have seen it that many times. Once when I was sick I even watched the Godfather I & II back to back on TV. Out of all the scenes in the movie, the most memorable to me is the Baptism scene. A scene that is somewhat replicated in the next to installments to the trilogy. The contrast between the violence and social behavior is so beautifully interwoven in this striking scene that elegantly ties together several themes of Francis Ford Coppola’s epic film.
In the scene we see Michael’s nephew being baptized in an elegant golden Catholic church. The scene is then intercut with several acts of violence being prepared all with a church organ and Latin prayers being played over it. All these acts of violence orchestrated by Michael become closer to their bloody conclusions; the music gets tenser illustrating the suspense of the scene. As Michael accepts his role as Godfather to the newly born child, the brutality erupts. The same as he renounces Satin, several rivals and betrayers are gruesomely gunned down. The water that runs over the head of the child, cleansing the soul sins, is in contrast with the blood that flows down the street.
The scene signifies the continuation of tradition, a major theme of the movie. The child is being forced upon the religious traditions dictated by his family. Although Connie and Carlo probably dismiss many attributes of religion, the child is more importantly being brought into a social society. The child is now a part of a way of life built upon organized crime and is likely to follow into that legacy. The scene also signifies a new leader of that way of life, Michael. Michael follows tradition by becoming a Godfather making him the head of the family and mafia boss. He becomes leader through the child’s baptism, but also through the violence he is orchestrating. It shows the combination of the business and social aspects that are necessary for heading the family. While many characters try to separate business from personal affairs, this scene combines them through tradition to show they are intertwined.
The scene also issues a new found corruption of Michael. Despite the fact that he is swearing off Satin, he is arranging the deaths of his enemies. Michael goes from war hero, to defender of his family, to leading the violent enterprise which is the Corleone. Throughout the movie, Michael compromises his ideals for the sake of the family. He says that he is not his family to Kay in the beginning of the film which he later changes to he will have the Corleone running a legitimist business in a short amount of time. It is the life style Don Vito never wanted for his son, but it was destined. Michael is now a mafia boss and is orchestrating murders. Unknown to the viewer, at this point in the scene is just how corrupt Michael has become. While all this is occurring, Michael knows the boy’s father, and his brother in law only has a limited number of hours left. The irony of the religious ceremony cleansing of the soul of the sin combined with the corruption of Michael’s soul makes the scene that much more powerful.
This scene would be a basis for the conclusion of the second Godfather which follows even further with the corruption of Michael. It is rare for a scene to be both as violent as this scene and be as meaningful and significant. This makes the movie that much more powerful.
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