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Sitting in a dark theatre, hundreds of eyes watch as the projected images move across the screen.
The Godfather was released in 1972, and audiences were mesmerized. The importance of film scores in cinema was celebrated and the film was a success.
“The composer [Nino Rota] is a master of his art, He was the composer of [Federico] Fellini films and [Luchino] Visconti films, who were among the best directors of the 20th century. He had superb technical skills and mastery of the medium,” said Martin Kutnowski, professor and director of the fine arts program at St. Thomas.
To commemorate the 40th anniversary of The Godfather release, the Great Books Program at St. Thomas will host a series of events over the span of three nights this week. The events include a screening of the film, a panel discussion of the themes and a lecture based off the music.
“Music creates a stronger communication with the audience,” said Bruce LeGrow, long-time member of the Fredericton Film Co-op and owner of Insurmountable Sounds Inc. “The big thing about a film score is that it really sets a context how the viewer supposed to feel. It can also elude something that might be happening in the film.”
The Francis Ford Coppola film, The Godfather, is an American crime drama that’s composition has created some of the most memorable and compelling film scores in cinema.
“In respect to The Godfather, it uses great Italian background and traditional music. Especially the Waltz and the song during the wedding scene are really such emotive pieces that really set the tone for the whole film,” said LeGrow.
This particular Rota piece, the Waltz, has been used in each of the three Godfather films and is often considered to be one of the most recognizable pieces in cinema.
Kutnowski will deliver a lecture on the music as part of the Great Books retrospective on The Godfather.
“Music has a strange role in film,” said Kutnowski. “In many cases there is symphonic music which we know as background music, that has no logical justification, but we however accept it and continue to watch the film. This convention is intrinsically tied to the beginning of film where silent movies were accompanied by piano.”
Composing over 150 film scores and being ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the greatest film score composers, it was no secret that Rota contributed to the outstanding success of the Godfather series.
“There was music in movies before there was dialog, so in a way a film score can be just as important to the story as dialogues” said Ryan O’Toole, amateur film director and screenplay writer.
Many silent films relied on live pianists in the theatre to accentuate the scenes and actions of the characters. Improvisation from the sheet music was used when the musician felt like the scene needed it.
Film makers often use film scores to help tell the story and create imagery. The music may be used to shape each character or scene with tempo, pitch, range and melody. However in some cases it may be that the lack of music creates the anticipation and suspense the filmmaker may be looking for.
“No Country for Old Men. That [movie] is not using music to great effect. That movie has such a great feeling of isolation and suspense that I think music would detract from that,” said LeGrow.
“The score to The Godfather is important,” said O’Toole. “Like in any film, music gives an extra layer to the underlying message. Depending on how it is used, music can change a scene completely.”
Themes in The Godfather will be discussed Wednesday at 12:30pm in the Holy Cross Conference Room and a discussion of the film’s music will be Thursday in the Recital Room in McCain Hall at 4pm.