The Godfather


The opening mood is private, in an enclosed space, as a man of steady nerves and cool judgment listens. His countenance is studying that of a man asking for a violent favor. In return, he asks for friendship. A strategic business agreement.  This is the work of Don Corleone (Marlon Brando), the leader of a mafia clan.

Yet the opening scene is a contrast of images. As the Don discusses sinister matters indoors, a family wedding on the outside presents a culture of cheerfulness, close family ties, and a sense of familial priorities. 

Then the saga unfolds in its path down to inevitability. The Don, unlike his tendency to grant favors, rejects an offer to do business with the Sollozzo family (led by a performance by Al Lettieri) that sets off a repercussion of violence that is carefully and ruthlessly orchestrated. The Don is attacked in broad daylight by armed men and the argument is that its business, not personal. Not for the sons of the Don though, particularly the eldest Sonny(James Caan), who along with the advice of the family lawyer(Robert Duvall) and his youngest brother Michael(Al Pacino) plot their will for revenge. The women in the family, however, such as Michael’s girlfriend ( Diane Keaton) are not kept informed. 

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and shot by Gordon Willis, the film examines the violent operations of gangsters and presents the Corleone’s as a tragic case whereby a close family is dismantled by the perfidious nature of their business. The music by Nino Rota underlines the tone and the performances heighten the personalities and feelings of its characters.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God


As they travel in search for mythical gold,  conquistadors begin to fail in their health and mind. The dense jungles of Peru have given them sickness of all kinds. And turning back would be unfavorable against the foggy mountains and rivers that are either too strong or sluggish.

Surrounding nature can be quiet with the exception of the crickets. The expedition group is organized with leaders who are royalty under the authority of Gonzalo Pizarro.  The soldiers and slaves are obedient but begin to lose unity. Some are dissatisfied to the point of committing mutiny, such as Don Lope de Aguirre (Klaus Kinski), a sharp faced, sour soldier with spiteful eyes.  Meanwhile, the priest known as Brother Gaspar documents the events around him.

The film has the feel of a documentary.  The physical qualities of the surroundings can almost be felt like the humidity, wetness, and dirt. The journey of the characters becomes dispirited and fall into decaying conditions. And the jungle natives, though rarely seen, make their presence felt by the spears and arrows that are thrown at the conquistadors.

Cruelty is inflicted on the accompanying helpers. Then as mistrust grows, the group begins to turn on one other. The Aguirre character is memorable for his silent perfidiousness. As he slowly gains control over others, and without any authority to obey, madness pervades him and his followers.

Directed by German director Werner Herzog and shot by Thomas Mauch, Aguirre, the Wrath of God is filled with apprehension and emerging dread. It’s an effective experience.