The Godfather Leitmotifs, Incidental Music, Diegetic Music 1

Music in The Godfather
Leitmotifs, Incidental Music,
Diegetic Music
(‘leading motifs’ – musical term referring to a recurring theme)
3 major leitmotifs heard
in finale & end-titles:
• Godfather theme
• Michael theme
• Sicily theme
All in minor key
(connotes sadness)
Leitmotifs undergo
Godfather Theme 1
• Has the character of an
Italian folk melody
(connoting the historical
roots of the Corleones)
• Solo trumpet – common
instrument in Italian
villages – signifies the
loneliness and
melancholy of the
Chapter 1: 0:00:06-0:00:49
Godfather Theme 2
• Transformed into an
elegant waltz at the
wedding as Don Vito
dances with his daughter
Chapter 3: 0:24:53-0:25:30
Godfather Theme 3
• Transformed to a
distorted carousel tune in
the horrific severed horse
head scene
Chapter 4: 0:31:04-0:32:31
Godfather Theme 4
• Clarinet and oboe over
• Calm music to signify
that, for the Corleones,
murder is an everyday
event like eating or
• Bridge to next scene
where Michael is thinking
of his father in hospital
(the use of the theme
foreshadows the fact that
Michael will succeed his
father as Godfather)
Chapter 7: 0:55:00-0:55:47
Godfather Theme 5
• Godfather theme with
folk-like accompaniment
and distorted harmonies
as Michael is drawn into
the family business
Chapter 8: 1:03:26-1:03:53
Godfather Theme 6
• Played again over
the final scene.
• Mirrors the opening
scene – showing
Michael’s total
transformation /
new role as
Chapter 22: 2:44:22-2:46:35
Michael Theme 1
• Dark funeral dirge
connoting actual death
and Michael’s spiritual
Chapter 7: 0:50:21-0:50:48
Michael Theme 2
• Funeral dirge on trumpet
with slow pulse on drums
Chapter 8: 0:59:38-1:00:25
Michael Theme 3
• Stinger chord starts
funeral dirge as Michael
leaves the scene of his
first executions
Chapter 10: 1:25:20:-1:25:45
Michael Theme 4
• Funeral dirge against
descending chords
(falling leaves?)
• Michael’s funereal coat
and hat connotes both his
spiritual death and as a
bringer of death
• Funeral melody
foreshadows Kay’s
spiritual death when
reunited with Michael
Chapter 18: 2:07:33-2:08:02
Michael Theme 5
• Funeral dirge on cello as
old family friend Sal
Tessio is taken away to
be executed
Chapter 21: 2:36:58-2:37:31
Sicily Theme 1
• Poignant melody on
strings with sound of
cowbells as Don Vito
remembers Sicily &/or
thinks of Michael in Sicily
Chapter 12: 1:32:41-1:33:14
Sicily Theme 2
• Melody on accordion,
strings and woodwind in
Michael’s courtship of
Chapter 12: 1:40:02-1:41:30
Sicily Theme 3
• Melody on mandolin with
guitar accompaniment for
love scene
Chapter 14: 1:46:30-1:47:41
Incidental Music
• Dance tunes at wedding composed by Carmine Coppola
• Swing version of “Manhattan Serenade” (show-biz
connotations) when Tom Hagen goes to LA
• Songs (mainly non-diegetic) e.g. “Mona Lisa”, “Have
Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, Frank Sinatra’s “I
Have But One Heart” (in-joke as Johnny Fontaine
storyline based on Sinatra)
• Music to create mood e.g. tension in hospital scene
• Traditional tunes in Sicily (diegetic)
Music, Dialogue & Sound in
Baptism Montage Sequence
• Most of organ music is J S Bach’s Passacaglia in C Minor
(ambiguous – starts diegetic but then becomes very loud nondiegetic – functions to create mood cf. use of train sound in Sollozzo
• Sound of crying baby (diegetic)
• Sound of priest reciting Latin prayers and baptismal vows in English
as well as Michael’s responses (diegetic)
• Sounds from preparation and carrying out of executions (diegetic)
• Organ music swells to a climax with stinger chords at the executions
• Sound mix from is dense layers of sounds which clear to let us hear
priest’s words (“Do you renounce Satan?” and Michael’s vows (“I
do” and “I do renounce them”)
Baptism Montage Sequence
Chapter 21: 2:30:03-2:34:53