The two films that I will compare and contrast for this paper are the Godfather and The Truman Show. The technical element that I will discuss will be designing and will include discussing: décor, props, color in décor, and real life locations. Barsam and Monahan (2016) define design as “The process by which the look of the settings, props, lighting, and actors is determined. Set design, décor, prop selection, lighting setup, costuming, make up, and hair style design all play a role in shaping the overall design” (p.
495). In both films they are trying to give perception for a “perfect life” even though that is not realistic. In the Godfather it was a patriarchal society where males wanted to indicate that everything was perfect in their world and that it was dominated exclusively by males. The Truman Show was set in a fake world which was a “perfect” world for Truman even though throughout most of his life he did not know it was all fake and that he was the main character in a television show.
The overall theme that connects the two films would be controlled as the world evolving the protagonist was either controlled by them or evolved around them. In the film the Godfather they intentionally created this film for the male characters to be dominant over the female characters. The bedrooms were a perfect example of these distinct differences as the male bedrooms suggested authority and power while the female bedrooms were feminine and soft.
The bedroom of Jack Waltz was designed like he was a “king” because the main color of his room was gold regal and lavish at the top with his comforter, headboard, blinds, trophies, walls, and even his pajamas suggested power. His bed frame, dressers, and nightstands were dark brown showing the masculinity of the character. On top of his nightstands there was gold which showed a level of wealth. Barsam and Monahan (2016) explained that “Setting creates a mood that has social, physiological, emotional, economic, and cultural significance” (p.177). The set director is trying to convey the theme of male dominance and control with the use of furniture and color within a male’s bedroom.
In contrast to the male’s bedroom design, the female’s bedroom in the Corleone mansion revealed a weaker gender. To illustrate, the bed was pink and silky as well as the curtains on the windows. There was a patterned wallpaper with green in it that pulled the whole room together. There were two stuffed animals in the room, one centered in the middle of the bed and the other on the window bench. This would typically be a room for the young girl, not an older woman. These feminine colors and decorations indicated that women could be controlled by males, especially in an intimate space, like a bedroom.
Another design element in the Godfather that revealed authority and dominance are the office spaces of the male characters. There were dark paneled walls with big overruling chairs, covered in leather or other masculine fabric. This shows how male characters in the Godfather are showing their power and claiming the spaces their own. People are welcome to come in and out of the space to have conversations with the male in control but are then dismissed from the space. This was especially true for the females and in a way this seems like they have to be invited into the office. In contrast the women in the film spend much of their time in spaces that serve others. Whether it is the dining room or the kitchen these spaces act as the domain for females in their domestic roles. Even in those spaces, they are even controlled in a way where the expectation is to have everything perfect, such as the dishes in the buffet or on the table.
Clearly, the set designer is trying to illustrate the patriarchal world of the Corleone family. The significant prop in the whole film, in my opinion, was the horse head. They are putting fear in Jack Waltz as he was sleeping. This was his favorite black horse that he owned and someone cut off its head and put it in his bed while he was sleeping. Another significance to this was the color of the horse because black often means death. When Jack Waltz woke up in his bed with all of the blood all over him, he did not realize it at first but when he lifted up his silky sheets, he found his beloved horse’s head. This was an intentional decision by the family to persuade him and force him to give in giving up power. The act of this was to show Waltz and others that you do not have any power or control over the Corleone family.
Real-life locations served as a way to better understand culture and control in the film. This was the story of Italian Americans, so it was important to show the cities/countries that made them who they were. The Corleone family was from the area of Sicily in Italy so parts of the movie were filmed there, especially mansions and churches. As a result, the film was showing their role of wealth and religion. Another location that was used in the film was New York City. There was a wedding in Long Island and their honeymoon was at St. Regis hotel which is high class and once again this shows power and status. Barsam and Monahan (2016) explain that “Perhaps the most important decision that a filmmaker must make about the setting is to determine when to shoot on location and when to shoot on a set” (p.177). This shows how important it is to determine where and what parts to film the movie because in this case it helps the viewer understand how culture shaped the Corleone men to demand power and control.
In opposition, The Truman Show was depicted on a television set throughout the movie and was not showing any sense of the “real world.” There was really no type of real-life location in this film, instead the characters and actors existed in a bubble world. The only real-life location in this film was when the tip of Truman’s boat ran into the dome of this fabricated world. He then knew his whole life was a lie and controlled by other people and from there on he went to the real world. Barsam and Monahan (2016) discuss the importance of setting for a film which is “the environment (realistic or imagined) in which the narrative takes place” (p.177). Clearly, the set director for the Truman show had to create a controlled environment for the plot of this film.
Natural landscapes were not present, they were all formed by the production crew, even the ocean and weather. The vibrant colors used in the fake world let the viewer understand how it differed from reality. For example, the nature of the extremes of the sky and the grass was bright, happy colors that never changed as it does in the real world. The only exception was when Truman was figuring out about his whole life being fake and controlled. When Truman got over his fear of water and went out to sea on a boat, the Christof of this world made it rain and then it turned into an enormous thunderstorm. Once Truman was yelling back at the audience and Christof while the storm was going on and at some points when the storm was calmer. The Christof stopped the storm dramatically and right away it was sunny and beautiful out, unlike the reality. All of this was proving ultimate control and everything was evolving around Truman. All that vivid color they had throughout the movie was different from the scene shots that were in the control room where it was dark with a lot of computers and machines. However, it was in these darker areas that all control was happening.
Within the film props served an important role in exemplifying control. Throughout every day of his life since he was a baby they had people in the film as actors in the movie, where they all were set in a certain location and from the first day Truman was born pretending to be his family, friends, or neighbors. These actors said something to Truman, waved to him, or acted upon some type of gesture towards him every day. The script was tightly controlled and Truman was oblivious. An example of this in the film is when Truman was getting suspicious about this world he was talking to his best friend, Marlon, on a dock. Meanwhile Truman thought he was being genuine and telling the truth to him. However, this was another situation of control as Marlon had an earpiece relaying what was to be said by Christof. At the beginning of the film when Truman was planting flowers his wife was standing behind him, smiling directly at the cameras that were filming Truman. It was basically like a little commercial of her with her promoting about the chef’s pal. Again, this was another situation where everything was evolving around Truman and he was unsuspecting.
The décor of The Truman Show was intentionally staged and unrealistic. The exterior of the houses were ideal white homes in excellent conditions with white picket fences. Once you stepped inside the home it was even more dramatically “perfect.” To illustrate, when Truman and Meryl were in the living room, the space was very controlled without any items out of place. They had a wooden built-in book shelf with the books perfectly arranged and even some of the book covers matched the wall paint. Their television reflected the 1950s and had a bright yellow flower in a vase on top of the television. No one’s house is really like this, clean and neat twenty-four-seven, but Truman never suspected everything. The irony of The Truman Show is “A movie set is not reality, but a fragment of reality created as the setting for a particular shot” yet this film embraced all that was unrealistic and controlled.
In conclusion, the two films I chose Godfather and The Truman Show had the common theme of control. In the first film, it was the male characters who demonstrated control over their lives as well as others. In the second film, Truman was secretly controlled and the rest of the world watched and helped control him. Both films were well done to demonstrate this theme of control through the use of design.