(Re)visiting ‘The Godfather’ Trilogy

Thanks to Netflix, I finally got to see ‘The Godfather’ Trilogy (which is a whopping 539 minutes) from beginning to end, with the triad (pun intended) of films made in the years 1972, 1974 and 1990. What struck me as most surprising about the series is that it is at heart a deeply resounding tragedy – more so than celebration of the ‘glory’ of organised crime. The protagonists, as in the iconic posters hardly smile, and any laughter is short-lived, replaced by frowns of worry and strain. 

The audience see an ‘endless’ cycle of hatred being played out. The ‘first’ key American Godfather featured came to be one when first bullied by another Godfather in Italy as a child. While we can empathise with how he grew up to see vicious and tactical violence as a way to retaliate against violence, we also get to see how hatred begets hatred senselessly, in an inter-generational way.  
When there is awe by others of one’s power over them as a gangster, one’s ego grows to crave more power. And with it comes ill-gotten wealth. However, there is seldom one gangster or gang in town. There is jealousy and competition. And of course, there are the cops. The Godfathers’ families thus lived uneasy lives, always on their toes, before ripening of negative karma finally catches up.   

As the first Godfather weakens with age and sickness, and with one of his sons killed by a mobster, his youngest son assumes his position. Although he was initially resistant to having anything to do with the ‘family business’, he was seduced by the power that he could readily wield to wreck vengeance. Before he knew it, he ‘naturally’ transitioned to be an asura-like Godfather.

Although it is crucial for ‘honour’ among thieves for a gang to thrive, the truth is, thieves are already deeply dishonourable in nature, who are likely to honour greater power and wealth more than anyone else. Thus, even the remaining blood brother betrays the new Godfather, who then felt compelled to kill him for peace of mind. Both Godfathers died alone, bringing nothing of their power and wealth to their next lives. Why then, even be a gangster for an instant, what more a life?

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