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Parallel Editing and Story Arc in The Godfather

Released in 1972, The Godfather redefined the gangster genre.  Nominated for the best editing Academy Award, this film used parallel action, music,  and effective storytelling techniques to create the baptism scene that exemplified the conflicted nature of Michael Corleone.

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barnitz's picture

The point of the editing in this scene, it's always seemed to me, is the contrast of the innocence of the baptism of the child and the concurrent baptism into the evil world of the mafia for the godfather, Michael. This is the payback scene for the assassination attempt on his father and the first demonstration of how he's going to act as the godfather of the crime family. It can also be read, when you consider the acting choices by Pacino, as the removal of the last vestages of reluctance on his part about embracing the family business (and its methods). While he affirms the renunciation of evil as the proxy godfather for his nephew (also named Michael) the actions he set into motion completely undercut his words. All this is achieved by the careful justaposition of images and action, not by the poor blood effects and the tatters on the back of the guy shot at the top of the stairs before he rolls toward the camera. If you're going to talk about editing, analyze the scene in context, don't act like a fan boy in a video arcade.