The Godfather – Closing Sequence

The sequence begins with Connie bursting into the don’s office. This is the same place the film began, but now we see Michael in the Don’s chair. He is at ease in the position, signified by the cigar he is smoking.

Connie calls him a “lousy bastard” for having her husband, Carlo, killed. While Connie cries hysterically, the camera remains statically on Michael. He is the focus of the audience, and his absence of emotion shows that he is in control. Kay and Connie remained blurred in the foreground of the shot, reminding us that their role as women is peripheral.

Eventually, Michael attempts to embrace his sister but she breaks away crying again. The code of the family is such that it has led to Carlo’s death (he betrayed the family) and the conflict in the scene comes from Connie trying to integrate the mafia life with her personal life. This echoes a previous scene when the family are eating and they make it clear to Carlo that family and business should not mix. In this case, the mix has led to a rupture in the family and Connie struggles to reconcile the two codes she must live by.

When Connie exits, we cut to a close-up on Kay, and her anxiety is written clearly in her expression. Michael, uncomfortable in her piercing gaze, turns away from her and walks around his desk. We get a sense that he is calculating what to say to her. When the camera cuts back to her, her gaze is still fixed and unblinking. She is demanding an answer from him.

Michael dismisses Connie’s outburst, saying, “She’s hysterical.” He lights a cigarette, possibly showing discomfort or ease – this is an ambiguous gesture. Again, he says quietly, “hysterical” and gestures with his hands as if to say, “she’s out of control”. These gestures, and his calm manner, are used to emphasise that he is being reasonable, especially in contrast to his sister’s behaviour. However, it is clear that he is struggling to meet Kay’s eyes. The scene is a final barrier for Michael to break down. He has committed to the mafia completely, but he obviously still feels guilt towards the betrayal of his wife, and his earlier promise that “That’s my family, Kay. It’s not me.”

Throughout, the camera follows Michael as he uncomfortably paces, always keeping Kay blurred in the foreground. After a pause, she asks him, “Michael, is it true?”

He avoids the question by telling her, “Don’t ask me about my business, Kay.” This is another euphemism. Rather than admit the truth, he tries to prevent Kay from asking about it. This is because he does not want to lie, and he cannot answer her question acceptably to her without lying. However, she persists, asking again, “Is it true?” He repeats, “Don’t ask me about my business.” This time, he emphasises the point by pointing his finger at her. She refuses again, saying “No.” At this point, Michael snaps and shouts, “Enough!” As he does so, he slaps the desk and the diegetic sound creates a huge shock to the audience as his surface of calm is broken. As with previous scenes, the shock of the noise comes from the relative quiet of the rest of the scene. There is no music, and all we have heard so far has been Michael’s quiet voice, and Kay’s questions.

At this point, Michael’s face is contorted in anger at his wife, while hers is visibly shaken. She is having to face up to the reality that her husband is a murderer and clearly struggling to accept it.

However, Michael relents and says, “This one time.” Just prior to this, he sighs heavily, twice, signifying that he is coming to a decision himself. Kay still has not removed her gaze from him. She hesitates before asking, “Is it true?” The camera cuts between them twice, emphasising the pause in dialogue and creating tension as the audience waits to see if he will confess to her. Finally, he shakes his head and says, “No.” Relieved, she smiles and embraces him. At this point, the music re-enters the scene with the prelude to the Godfather scene. This indicates that Michael is now behaving in a manner befitting a Godfather – he has now crossed the final obstacle, and has turned his back on his wife to accept the life of the mafia Don. His transformation from All-American hero to mafia villain is complete.

Finally, we cut away from the intimacy of the close-up, over-the-shoulder shot which has framed the scene, and we are present with the two in mid-shot, from the side. Suddenly the audience is drawn out of the tension, and Kay demonstrates this puncture in the tension of the scene when she says, “I guess we both need a drink, huh?” She then breaks the embrace and leaves the office. We cut to a shot from the point of view of the ante-room, again with Kay blurred in the foreground and an emphasis on the focused shot of Michael in the office.  As she prepares a drink for herself and Michael, several of Michael’s associates enter the office. They shake his hand and embrace him as the Godfather, finally kissing his hand. Finally, for the first time, Michael is addressed as “Don Corleone”, bestowing the title of his father on him. As a second man kisses his hand, a third moves towards Kay and closes the door. This symbolically demonstrates the way Kay is being closed off and separated from the mafia world in which Michael now operates. We see a close up of her face as she turns to see the door close and again it is etched with fear. The shadow of the door cuts across her face and leaves the screen in blackness as the Godfather theme enters.

This scene is vital in showing the final stages of Michael’s transformation, but also of showing how Kay cannot reach her husband, and that she will always be a separate part of his life. Michael is determined to keep business and family separate, and this is conveyed in the camera shots, editing, music and use of lighting in this final scene.

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