Francis Ford Coppola has produced many films over his career. Two of his films that have become very popular are The Godfather and Apocalypse Now! Coppola uses many of the same elements in his films. In particular he uses cross cutting, close ups, non-simultaneous sound, the element of innocence, and the importance of the music. By looking at The Godfather and Apocalypse Now! these elements are clearly represented.
The element of cross cutting is used in The Godfather in the baptism scene. While Michaels niece is in the church and the priest is going over his vows of becoming her godfather the camera cuts between the killing of all the heads of the other mafia families. In Apocalypse Now! cross cutting is used when Wilard is killing Captin Kurtz. While Wilard is killing Kurtz the camera cuts between their blood bath in the temple to the religious ceremony outside that the Vietnamese are sacrificing what appears to be a water buffalo.
Non-simultaneous sound is used in Apocalypse Now! when the American army is flying into a small Vietnamese village. The camera is focused on a small schoolhouse and in the background the sound of helicopter propellers spinning can be heard. As the helicopters near the village the kernel turns on an instrumental piece by Beethoven, which is supposed to scare the villagers. Another example of non-simultaneous sound is used in Apocalypse Now! when Wilard gets off the boat at the last spot before he enters Cambodia.
The voice of a Vietnamese man can be heard shouting slurs at the Americans but the camera does not show him. One of the soldiers shoots in the direction where the voice is coming from and then there is nothing but silence. Even though the man is not shown the sound implies that he is dead. During the baptism scene in The Godfather non-simultaneous sound is used as well. As the heads of the families are being killed the voices from the church can be heard as Michael is accepting his vows of becoming the godfather. Footsteps echo through a separate hallway from the church as the camera focuses in on the alter at the church.
Innocence is represented in The Godfather through Micheals character. In the beginning of the film he is completely separate from the ‘family business’. He does not want anything to do with it. As the film continues on his father’s life is put in danger and he is almost killed. Michael stays by his side and protects him. By his actions of protecting his father he is inducted into the ‘family business’. Which results him in becoming the new head of his family. By becoming the godfather Michael looses his innocence because he has to kill people and participate in illegal activities. In Apocalypse Now! the element of innocence is represented by a small puppy.
As Wilard and his crew are floating down the river in their boat they come across a Vietnamese family on a boat. They pull up alongside it and Wilard orders Cook to go inspect the boat to see if they are stowing any weapons on board. The woman on the boat made a quick movement and Wilard and his crew got scared and started shooting everywhere resulting in the death of the family that was on the boat. After the shooting stopped Cook realized that she was just trying to protect her little puppy that she had kept hidden. One of the other crew members decides to take the puppy on to their own boat and bring it along for the rest of their journey.
The importance of score is represented in Apocalypse Now! while Cook is sitting on the boat and starts to make the radio call to bomb the area where Kutrz is staying. In the background the sound of drums are used to simulate the steps of feet approaching the boat. Another example is when the helicopters are flying into the Vietnamese village; the captain blasts a Beethoven song. The song ties into the scene perfectly because the composer is known to be very racist and while the song is playing the captain calls out many racial slurs. In The Godfather an example of useful score is when the film producer of a new movie is laying in bed and as the camera pans up to where he is sleeping the music in the background get louder and louder. When the producer wakes up he is covered in blood and he starts to scream which then turns into the baby in the mafia family crying.
The element of close ups is another common element used by Coppola. In the Apocalypse Now! many close ups are used on Wilards face and eyes. These close ups are used to convey the emotions he has and to show how war is effecting his character. The intensity of Kurtz is also shown through the use of close ups. In the scene where he drops Cooks head in Wilards lap is an excellent example of this. Kurtz approaches Wilard and the camera focuses on the expression on his face, Kurtz shows no emotion and just stares straight into the cameras eyes, he appears to be almost inhuman.
Close ups are used in The Godfather to accentuate the importance of family as well as close ups on hands. The symbol of hands was to show that their family was in control of everything that happened. No one could deny them because all they would need to do is “make them an offer they couldn’t refuse.” The close ups to show the importance of family played through out the entire movie because their main goal was to keep business and family separate.
Francis Ford Coppola used many common elements in his films such, cross cutting, close ups, non-simultaneous sound, the element of innocence, and the importance of the music. By watching The God Father and Apocalypse Now! these elements are clearly represented. Coppola has a clear film style that cannot be argued to exclude the elements of cross cutting, importance of music, close ups, and innocence. In any of his films one or more of these elements are used.
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