This page is an abstract from our full analysis of The Godfather, one of the most appreciated movies ever and a masterwork of scriptwriting.
Sequence 3. Sollozzo/Tattaglia move into the attack. 33-56
In continuity in space and time with the previous sequence, but in a dramatic break (same place, same characters, different plot):
Tom Hagen presents the profile of Sollozzo a.k.a. „The Turk“, a drug lord who grows poppies in Turkey, converts them to heroin in Sicily, and imports the heroin to New York. Allied with the Tattaglia family who belong to the „Five Families“ mafia of New York, he asks Corleone for protection against the police, and also for money.
This exposition from Hagen to Vito about Sollozzo, is obviously made to inform us about Sollozzo‘s identity. He provides us the elements of the characters‘ schema that is going to be built up: Sollozzo, Antagonist, and Tattaglia, Mentor of the Antagonist.
In an interlaced plots structure, we can see Sollozzo arriving, and Sonny welcoming him.
Here the interlaced plots structure generates some suspense: just after, we can understand that the shots showing Sollozzo took place just before the scene we‘re going to follow. A strictly chronological montage would have produced a less dynamic effect.
Vito asks Sonny, then Tom Hagen, about what they think about Sollozzo‘s proposition.
Vito is here in the position of the Hero asking his Mentors for advice, an attitude that is rare for him.
Sonny favors the deal. Tom Hagen thinks the same and argues that drug money, is the „future“, and allows one to buy influence: If they, the Corleone family, don‘t take it, someone else will. Sonny asks his father what he will do. Vito doesn‘t answer.
It confirms again that Sonny, the elder, the heir, only comes third in the hierarchy and only has an advisory role. Vito decides, and Hagen argues. The absence of Vito‘s answer intensifies the suspense.
Cut to: Sollozzo speaks about a deal: he asks for one million dollars, political influence, protection against the police, and in exchange, he offers 30% of his benefits.
Sollozzo, at first a Hero of his own plot, asks the Corleone to become his Helper, and clearly reveals his Goal.
Vito answers in two steps. Firstly, he shows some respect to Sollozzo. He obviously doesn‘t want any trouble with him. The camera reveals the presence of several other people in the room, especially Fredo, Clemenza, and Tessio.
We know them already, since they were all briefly introduced during the marriage sequence. The camera move helps making a progressive revelation.
Then Vito explains he refuses the proposition, because he believes drugs are „dirty“ and „dangerous“. Sollozzo tries to negotiate but in vain. Sonny tries to express his point of view but Vito orders him to shut up with authority.
Conflict between the Hero Vito and his Mentor–Helper Sonny.
Vito concludes: his refusal is firm, he wishes good luck to Sollozzo, and sends him out.
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