Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Significance of Oranges

Did you know that in the movie, The Godfather, the director used a motif of specially-placed oranges to signal coming danger?

The Don kicks over a basket of oranges when he’s attacked by Sollozzo’s men. Fanucci tosses an orange during his final stroll through Little Italy. Clemenza grabs a pitcher of wine with floating oranges as he tells Paulie to go do his job, then later kills Paulie for not doing his job. Tessio reaches across Mama Corleone to grab an orange during the wedding, literally crossing the Corleone Family, which later has him killed.

There are many more examples and the oranges are just some examples of Coppola’s mastery of mise-en-scene, or in laymen’s terms, the symbolic placement of all elements in the frame. In Part I, Coppola shows a fish pattern on the bar window where Luca Brasi is strangled, foreshadowing the scene where Sonny receives a Sicilian message: “Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.”

In the Lake Tahoe scene where Michael tells Fredo, “You’re nothing to me now,” check out the row of life rafts outside the window. Across the left of the frame, where Michael sits, there are plenty of rafts (safety), but to the right, behind Fredo, there are none (danger). These particular rafts take on even more significance when you consider where Fredo ends up at the end of the movie. (Dead in a lake.)

Now I need to watch the movie again and see how to use this in writing, forshadowing. I’ve heard about themes, and symbolism in stories but this is the first clear picture I’ve had in my head of how that can work. How can I translate this from a visual art form to words that make the vision clear? I think it will take work, but be challenging to try. Anyone know of other examples?

One commenter will win an electronic copy of Privy to Murder.


Anonymous said...

Never knew any of that--very kewl info! Makes my head hurt to think about doing that in my writing, though. *s*

Carol said...

I know. I love the idea but not sure how to carry it through in a way that would make sense and make it into the sensitility of someone else reading it.