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Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather II: A lesson in how to make sequels

Oscar-winner director Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather II was so good that it outshined its prequel, the very acclaimed and path-breaking film The Godfather. Here's why the part two of the series is so highly regarded.

Written by Anvita Singh | New Delhi |
April 7, 2018 7:07:33 am
A still from The Godfather II Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather II is a sequel done right

Despite giving the world of cinema many worthy movies, Oscar-winning director Francis Ford Coppola is primarily known for bringing Mario Puzo’s The Godfather series to life on the big screen. While the first part of the series set everything in motion, it is the second film that really stands out in terms of direction and story-telling.

The Godfather II starred Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton and John Cazale among others in pivotal roles. Apart from brilliant performances and a tight script, what elevates the second series of the film, in particular, is the way the screenplay moves back and forth in time. It is a non-linear narrative that deals with the young Vito Corleone, and then further delves into the present-day rule of Michael Corleone.

The Godfather II could have just been another sequel, a spin-off of The Godfather. But it is in reality, much more than just another part of a movie that stole all the limelight. In fact, The Godfather II is not actually a sequel, but a prequel-sequel to The Godfather. Part two takes off from where The Godfather left; a young Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in charge of the “business”. But then it also goes back in time to explain how Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) finally became a don. An origin story, if you will.

There’s a scene in The Godfather II where Kay Adams-Corleone (Diane Keaton) is grieving about her dead child. Michael, in his typical cold and practical way, is not at all bothered about what has transpired and comforts Kay by informing her that there will be others. Kay is aghast at the whole affair and then reveals to Michael that what he is perceiving as an accident was actually an abortion, a decision taken by Kay to stop an innocent child from entering the world of bloodshed and murders. Michael then slaps Kay forcefully, causing her to fall back down on a sofa. It’s a powerful scene and while much in the sequence has to do with stellar performances delivered by Keaton and Pacino, simple things like the camera moving in and quickly following Michael as he assaults Kay, helps us understand the full impact of the sequence better.

Al Pacino in The Godfather II Al Pacino in The Godfather II

The last scene of the film where Michael is seen reminiscing about the past is one of the most haunting sequences of the series. As the camera closes in on Pacino, we come to know that being a Don is not what Michael had thought it would be; it’s the fate of one of the most unfortunate ones to have everything and to witness loved ones die helplessly at the same time, to not be able to save them. A life which Michael had never wanted to lead in the first place.

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