Enmity and Compatibility: Revisiting The Godfather

Although it was not my intention to do so, this article is the bastard twin of the piece from last evening.

This takes a look at the relationships from The Godfather. The scene following ‘the night of the long knives’ where Michael settles the scores, Kay’s realisation and look of horror in the closing moments as she realises your man isn’t the man she was with at the beginning of the movie is vastly underrated.

Kay’s part in Michael’s transformation, and her role in the Godfather series is also vastly underrated. Most don’t appreciate how her character underpins Michael’s legacy.

We see from the introduction of the two characters in the wedding scene, where Michael is fairly unremarkable, even appearing amiable and genuine where one can assume he does have a genuine level of affection for her up until the double-murder in the restaurant which is Michael’s unwitting realisation of his true nature and identity. (It’s actually also somewhat notable that where Michael seemingly lacks self-awareness, Vito is all-of-the-time acutely aware of Michael’s true nature. Vito doesn’t want Michael to be involved in the family business and hoped he would become a senator. This has nothing to do with Michael not possessing a disposition or character entirely conducive to the family business. As Michael unwittingly scolds Kay without any sense of irony for her naivety when she tells him senators don’t have people killed. Also in the families dubious links with political figures which are mentioned on a number of occasions)

The scene in Sicily where Michael is ‘thunderstruck’ and dumbfounded by the beautiful local girl are essential within the crux of the transformation. Apollonia shadows his own Sicillian mother, who is quintessentially quiet and clement in not involving herself in her husbands affairs throughout the first two movies, until her own death. Similarly, Apollonia in personality plays a quiet, unassuming and passive role in the background as we see when they are visited by the Sicillian don. She has no interest in involving herself in her man’s affairs. Her virtuousness is in being a loving homely wife.

His reaction to seeing Kay upon his return couldn’t be more different. Kay at this point represents Michael’s idealised image of the woman he thinks he should be with as an Italian-American immigrant living the American dream. As a person, this lack of realisation and acceptance towards his own his true-identity, and his relationship with Kay which borders on using her to preserve his self-styled image as a family-man, and man of good-conscience is probably his ultimate pitfall and actually also the thing which ultimately most contrasts him from own father who for his own failings within his business is loved, respected and admired as a human-being, as through his wife he can acutely put distance between his family and his family. Although the waters may appear muddy at times, there is a clear distinction and his wife plays a pivotal role in this through her passive disinterest in the affairs of his business. For Michael, there is no such distinction, because Kay is not a woman of the same inclination, disposition or nature as his mother or Apollonia. Aswell it must be said, we see this in his murder of Carlo where the lines between the interest of his two families are deeply and irrevocably blurred beyond retrieval leading in towards Kay’s realisation in the closing moments.

On top of this in terms of relationships: his father actually quite obviously values and appreciates his wife. Michael can’t, because after Apollonia and his return to America he is simply lying to himself, about who and what kind of man he is, what his values are, and what he represents. Cinema at its finest.

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