Before it became the ’famous love theme from the Godfather’ Speak softly to me – which was the English title for the song (with similar translation in other languages) – it already had its more comic origin in the movie Fortunella from 1958 (that was the reason why Rota didn’t get the Oscar for music in 1972., although the same reason was ignored in ’74. when he finally got the award for the Godfather II). However, there is one more unforgettable theme in the movie – although it has the same motif as the opening tones of the 1st movement of Sibelius’s First Symphony, its not the Finish composer that influenced him. Rather, if there was an influence at all, we can say that the waltz is more a like the Sicilian version of Shostakovich’s ¾ rhythms. Devoid of melancholy that spreads through the mentioned love theme, it seems like the waltz theme comes out of nowhere, just like that; unexpectedly, the deceptive tone of the trumpet comes out of silence like it is emanating from the cracks before it pours in the entire space. It suggests mystery, secrets and the dangers of the underworld. But, it is also solitary – that trumpet tone – just like all the real leaders, that carry the burden of their deeds in their solitude. Such is the character of Michael Corleone, maybe even a bit more than the one of his father. But, there is another side that defies loneliness, and that is family. After the trumpet lament is over, Nino Rota creates the wonderful transformation of the theme – he repeats the same melody, but he transposes it one tone up, adding the accordion and the pulsing valse rhythm. In that way, although you cannot get rid of the presence of obscurity, the melody starts reaching the sound of familiarity and the well known ‘one, two, three’ rhythm, which is so often heard during the film, suggests the passing of the time and life.
Beside the dreadful side of the Godfather which makes it hard to watch every time (although we keep doing it) the unity of the family was one of the leading Coppola’s ideas, keeping in mind that he himself comes from a great Italian family. So, fully justified, he surrounded himself with the presence of his closest family members and by doing it, he gave the needed authenticity to the movie. You can see his children when they were little (Sofia Coppola was in front of the cameras for the first time when she was a baby, in the baptizing scene), his sister (starring as Connie) and his father conducting Cavalleria Rusticana in the third sequel (by the way, in his youth Coppola had really listened to his father conduct Mascagni’s opera). The Cavalleria Rusticana’s Intermezzo, whether you associate it with the Godfather’s most tragic scene or not, is for sure one of the most beautiful and the most emotional pieces of classical music ever written.
The 2017 is the year when the Godfather celebrates its 45th anniversary, and the director alongside the actors recalls how everything looked like in 1972. It seems strange now, knowing how everything was uncertain back in those years and how difficult the realization of directors ideas was, in the process of making one of the best movies of all times. The Godfather would have certainly kept that place without Nino Rota, but the tone this Italian composer endowed it with, not only made it immortal, but gave it the ticket to Heaven.