|Michael Corleone in "The Godfather" moments before he utters the words, "It's strictly business," photo credit Paramount Pictures/YouTube, fair use claimed/implied use authorized|
So I was all excited that I could embed a video directly into my blog from YouTube, I thought I had turned a technological corning in my blogging. Well, for whatever reason, it's not working (sigh). So friends, Ill need to invite you to check out the link below. It's short and permission is implied via YouTube's site, so please enjoy:
I'm guessing most of you will recognize the movie as "The Godfather." Before I get too far into this blog post, please take a moment to watch. Go on, I'll wait...
“The Godfather," for those of you who might not know, is the story of a 1940s American organized crime family. In the scene above, Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino, has recently saved his father, Vito “Don” Corelone, (played by Marlin Brando) from a second attempt on his life from rival gangsters. Until now, Michael had rejected the “family business.” However, Michael crosses over from a "civilian" to a "soldier” and is going to war for the family. In this scene, he signs his enlistment papers. He decides to commit two murders, one of a rival mob boss and the other a corrupt police captain.
When the rest of the "family" laughs at him, mocking his proposal as "emotional," he fires back at him (bad pun, I know) with that famous line:
"It's not personal, Sonny, it's strictly business."
I've seen this scene dozens of times. It's great cinematography. As the camera moves up on Michael, we’re able to watch him formulate the plan to commit a double murder. From the gestures of the actors, the background, it is a terrific scene all the way around.
I also think that movies can provide opportunities to reflect on things that are going on in our world. We can, if we chose, use movies, literature, even current events to evaluate what we believe, how we feel, even how we act.
Case in point- the iconic line, "It's strictly business." In the above scene, is it? I'd argue no.
Oh sure, Micheal rationalized what he was doing. "They tried to kill Pop. I'll kill them to save Pop. It's the only way I can be sure to save Pop. Family is the most important thing, the ONLY thing. I'll do whatever is necessary to protect him. Protecting him is protecting the family, the family business..."
This makes logical (albeit twisted, immoral) sense. Still, the fact remains that he was, in his twisted logic, saving Pop, his father, Don Corelone, the Godfather.
I'd argue that Michael made the statement to assure his brothers, Sonny and Tom (the consigliere), and the rest of the inner circle that he had the proper distance and detachment to carry out this act. Just watch Michael's eyes as the scene ends. It is an image of determination covering up boiling rage. This is far from strictly business.
Recently, a story came up about a candidate for governor in Maryland who made a crack about his opponent that really set me off. I even started doing a blog post on it. Yet I declined to publish it. Here's why:
When I re-read it the next morning, I concluded I was just venting. At the time I was pounding out my, "scotch no ice," reply on the keyboard, I was certain my retort was adding something to the social discourse. Upon reflection, I concluded...I wasn't. I was just pissed off that some politician said something that I took umbrage with. In other words, my reply was not "strictly business." It was personal.
"The Godfather" is a great movie, no doubt. Yet it is just that- a movie. We can view it as entertainment, social commentary, a cautionary tale, or all of the above.
I'd suggest the lesson offered from this movie is that almost everything we do is personal. This can be good or bad. It's up to us to figure that out as the camera of our conscious and moral compass zooms in on us.
Be well my friends,