The Godfather – The Hospital Scene

·         The scene begins with Michael in long-shot, approaching the shadow-darkened doorway of the hospital. The dark shades create an ominous tone for the scene. The music is discordant, immediately making the viewer uncomfortable.

·         When Michael enters, he finds the hospital deserted. The discordant strings alert the viewer that this is not as things should be. As he looks around the hospital, the diegetic sounds echo in the corridors, emphasising how empty the building is. The emptiness is further emphasised by the scratched record playing in one of the rooms, which nobody is around to correct. The mise en scene of the half-eaten sandwich and still-full coffee cup in the reception area show that whoever left the hospital did so in a hurry.

·         As Michael moves around the hospital, the regularly-placed lights cast him in light, then shadow. This repeats throughout the scene, symbolically denoting that he is in turmoil between the light of “legitimate” life, and the darkness of the family.

·         There is a minor anti-climax when Michael enters his father’s room and a character suddenly intrudes. The character is, however, only a nurse – but the shock she creates demonstrates the tension the audience is feeling. We are anticipating violence.

·         The nurse represents normality in the situation, and is trying to do her job. She protests when Michael wishes to move his father’s bed, to protect him from the coming assassins. However, Michael speaks deliberately and slowly to her to emphasise the danger his father is in.

·         “Do you know my father? Men are coming here to kill him. You understand? Now help me, please.” His language is direct and certain, showing Michael’s authority.

·         When the bed is moved, all non-diegetic sound is removed and we are left only with the squeaking and rattling of the gurney as it is shifted through the echoing hospital corridors. The silence creates a sense of anticipation, ratcheting up the tension for the viewer.

·         As the bed is manoeuvred out of the corridor, a door echoes from downstairs and footsteps are heard. The tension is created both from the urgency of the situation and the absence of sound. The audience is left to focus only on the bed. We know somebody is coming.

·         The figure that arrives is viewed almost entirely in silhouette, obscuring his identity, casting him in darkness and giving him a sinister appearance. The costume fits that of a gangster, the hat and long coat suggesting we are seeing one of the assassins.

·         When we finally see the visitor from the front we are presented with the face of an Italian-American and he is carrying a bunch of flowers. The viewer is now unsure of whether the character is an assassin or someone else.

·         Michael confronts the man and we learn it is Enzo, the baker who Don Corleone arranged to remain in America despite his not having the correct immigration papers. Again, we face an anti-climax. The exchange with Michael occurs with no non-diegetic sound, so the sense of anticipation, and fear, does not drop.

·         Michael directs Enzo outside to keep watch, before returning to his father.

·         In his father’s new room, Michael, cast in the shadow, reassures his now woken father: “Lie here, pop. I’ll take care of you.” Once again, we are seeing the authority of the character as Michael takes the role of protector. His head bowed (a position of reverence and respect in Catholic and Sicilian culture), Michael says to Vito, “I’m with you now”. It is symbolically significant that Michael says this line while his face is in shadow, suggesting that he has given in and now sides with the dark forces of the family. He rests his hand on his father’s head, affectionately, almost reversing the father-son bond, and assuming a paternal role. His father smiles thinly, conveying his approval.

·         It is at this point that non-diegetic sound is reintroduced in the form of the orchestra, confirming to the viewer that a decision has been made, and that Michael has indeed chosen the mafia life. This is confirmed when Michael, as in the protocols of the culture, kisses his father’s hand, pledging himself to him.

·         When he exits to meet Enzo, Michael’s entire person is cast in shadow, symbolising the way he has chosen the forces of the mafia darkness over the legitimate light.

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