Last year during the first lockdown I finally sat down and watched The Godfather Trilogy in its entirety. I don’t fancy many movies with guns and explosions because I find the noise to be very irritating; however I was captivated by each minute of these films! I immediately saw why the first installment is regarded as one of the best films of all time. Since then I’ve seen them now and again a few times, but recently I’ve been having marathons almost every other weekend. Whenever I find something I thoroughly enjoy, I immerse myself in it completely! The thing is that I’ve noticed that each time I watch it I discover something that I had missed before.
One thing that has definitely stuck out to me and has fascinated me ever since I noticed it is the use of oranges as an omen of death. I found it pretty odd that they chose oranges since the film was set in New York. I thought apples would be more appropriate as a reference to the “Big Apple” which is a popular name for NYC or even due to the fact that apples are widely considered to be the forbidden fruit mentioned in the bible. So the question is “Why oranges?”
The first significant time (for me) oranges are present at the scene of a ghastly event is when Vito was brutally gunned down in Sollozzo’s attempt to murder him. As the Don ran for cover the oranges spilled onto the asphalt. This subtly foreshadows all the disorder and blood that will be spilled as a result of that hit.
However, the MOST significant time I have seen oranges appearing in a scene before death occurs is in The Godfather Part II. In the beginning, Signora Andolini pays a visit to Don Ciccio to plead for him to spare young Vito after the murder of both his father and older brother. After Don Ciccio refusing to comply with her desires, she threatens him with a knife, presumably as a bluff to buy Vito some time to run away. Sitting on a table, a bowl is filled with brightly coloured oranges and on the foreground Vito’s mum is shot dead by the guards. I consider this to be the most significant because it is a pivotal moment in Vito’s life that sealed his fate. He is then forced to flee for the sake of his safety and upon arrival to his new home he is mistakenly named Vito Corleone. Now his identity will forever be a reminder of the place where his tragic story began; Corleone, Sicily.
Oranges are popular within the Mediterranean and in Sicily there is a type of orange called “la arancia rosso di Sicilia” or the Sicilian Blood Orange. When parted, the flesh strikingly looks as though it has been stained with blood. In Francis Ford Coppola’s film about the underworld we see blood being spilled like milk down a baby’s chin. Every single time a gunshot is fired, every single time a drop of blood is shed, every single time someone goes to sleep with the fishes it all comes down to that one vital moment in Sicily when young Vito’s destiny was decided for him. He left Sicily but Sicily follows Vito wherever he goes. He took Sicily with him when he left. Sicily lives on through the Corleone name through his offspring and we’re reminded of this each time we see an orange.
My favourite use of the orange motif is the comparison between Vito and Michael’s death. Vito is seen playing with his grandson in his lush green garden. He jokingly inserts an orange rind into his mouth covering his teeth and flashes a grin at Anthony then moments later he collapses and lays lifeless on the ground. He dies having no regrets and is loved, cherished and respected by his family. On the contrary, Michael sits alone in Don Tommasino’s compound, a whole orange in his hand. He built his family’s business into something never imaginable but in the midst of all that, he lost sight of what really was important. He has guilt; he has regrets but now it’s too late for him to do anything about it. Michael topples over onto the barren ground all alone.
Every time I watch these movies I am stunned by how much thought was put into the details. Something as simple as a bloody orange (pun intended) was made to be so impactful and definitely adds to the depth of artistry of the director. I’m always amazed at the fact that no matter how many times I watch these movies I can pinpoint something that I hadn’t noticed before.
What are some Easter eggs you might have discovered while watching this trilogy?