Goodfellas (1990) Analysis

9 September 2016

SchoonmakerAnalysis of Goodfellas (1990) Goodfellas (1990) is a film directed by Martin Scorsese, based in the book written by Nicholas Pileggi Wiseguys, where we can see the life of Henry Hill and how he works his way up through the mob hierarchy. From the beginning of the movie we know that Henry idolizes the mob with the next statement: “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster”.

And even though through the whole film the main character loves the gangster lifestyle, the position of the film in this matter is different, what the film or Scorsese really wants to show is the danger of the exuberance of this lifestyle, the greed that comes with this, greed for power, money or more drugs, until they end up killing each other and the police gets them, in other words, this life of devotion to the mob ends in failure.

Goodfellas (1990) Analysis Essay Example

Although this film is actually based in a true story, the techniques employed in it tend towards exaggeration. Scorsese uses some of these techniques to make sure that the viewers take part of the narrative, like using a first person narrator or even an on-camera narrator, where the character can describe their wonder, excitement and anxiety so they can better understand their decisions and it also aids in creating an emotional attachment to the characters.

Another technique Scorsese uses is the fluid camera; the best example of this is in the scene where Henry takes Karen to the Copacabana, trough the back door, skipping the queue, where the camera tracks them from behind as Henry is being greeted by the workers, even at one point Henry looks over to the side and the camera follows this movement to show a cook smiling at him. This scene is one unbroken shot. In this scene is where the viewers, and Karen, get a real sense of the importance of the Henry, noticing how everyone knows him and tries to accommodate him. As Henry charms Karen, he also mesmerizes the audience.

It also must be noticed that this shot symbolizes Henry’s rise in criminal prowess: his status has been allocated entirely through the back door all the way to the front and centre of all the other gangsters. This scene is very effective in portraying the power of Henry with almost no dialogue and the use of the setting, showing the importance of the club as popular place to go with the use of the mise en scene, or our main characters arriving just as the show is about to start where everyone else is already sitting and drinking or, as the case may be, waiting in the line to enter.

There is also the use of reds in certain key scenes that helps undermine the world they’re living in and also remind the audience of the “sins” the characters have. An example of this is the scene where the Henry, Jimmy and Tommy dispose of the body of Billy Bates, where a crimson colour scheme is used. Occasionally, the film breaks the fluid technique when there are actions that stunt the main character, which usually are unexpected violent actions made by Tommy; This kind of moments are also emphasised by the sudden use of jump cuts and the strong noises of gunshots.

There are also the moments where the film halts the pace by freezing when life gets to chaotic to the protagonist to keep up, pausing to try and understand. There is a scene in the film, near the end, where Henry has found that his wife Karen has flushed cocaine down the toilet to hide it from the police. After he discovers this he screams to Karen that that was all the money they had. After yelling and punching a wall Henry sinks to the floor cringing as Karen crawls over to him, hugs him and then cries hysterically.

This scene is filmed from afar, the main characters have hit rock bottom at last and feelings of isolation and despair filter trough out the whole scene, and the audience can only watch what the choices they protagonists have made have led them to. One aspect that is worth mentioning is the several times in which the characters willingly involve in trickery and lies between each other, even though they’re supposed to be family, which helps highlight the deceitful nature of criminals, of their duplicity. For this are multiple examples, such as when Tommy questions Henry about his concept of humour, or when he repares coffee for Stacks Edwards before executing him. However is not only Tommy that takes part of this, Henry is the one that most often changes into various roles. In front of the leader or father figure Paulie, he acts innocent and clueless when questioned about the location of the corpse he just buried some days before. Later on he swears to Paulie that he’ll never deal in drugs, even that he’ll stay away from Tommy and Jimmy but that is where he is getting the greater part of his earnings and with the help of both Tommy and Jimmy.

Jimmy also takes part, he assures Henry he has relented in his plan to kill Morrie, and as he heads home relieved, Jimmy kills him in a car. Near the end Jimmy tries to kill both Henry and Karen, pretending to be concerned for them. As Henry says, in this world “your murderers come with smiles”. These deceits are so usual that the treachery of that world is immediately realized. Yet these performances made by the characters somehow it also turns the trickery to the camera, as the audience is deceived just as easily as Henry or his targets.

At the beginning of the film Scorsese style choice makes certain that the audience knows this is an illusion, even the main character alludes to this stating that he’s “living in a fantasy” or saying that “life is but a dream”, for achieving this effect he makes use of the, already mentioned, fluid camera to glide through Henry’s “adventures”. It subtly sweeps through scenes, pulls onto the faces that seem charged with anticipation and excitement; it allows the energizing atmosphere to grow. In the sequence where the events of Sunday May 11th 1980 transpire, Scorsese contrasts his style to condemn Henry choices.

The takes are abrupt, frantic wreckage. The freeze-frames that previously helped to heighten the moment and allowed some reflection are now used to trap Henry in the frame, highlighting his cocaine-fuelled paranoia. Even the music is changed by persistent rock. This frenzied style it’s applied so good in transmitting Henry’s delusions that after everything is done the audience may doubt the reliability of the whole narration. The fear that takes over Henry’s life at the end of the film would not be understandable if the viewer did not saw the illusion of the beginning, the dream-like and teen thrill of his rise in the hierarchy.

At the start the rapid editing gave an exhilarating quality but now it only provokes paranoia and the sweep motions that once made us swoon now makes terrible revelations. The way Goodfellas portrait the mafia is by amplifying techniques and switching from careful, romantic movements to frantic stabs, with these the film exposes the mafia life to be built upon pretence. At the end, Henry has to quit his ideals, in order to feel and be safe again, “ratting on” his friends.

The life he once worshipped taken away from him for an average lifestyle as a suburban “shmuck”. Resigned to his fate, Henry decides to address the audience directly as if to reassure that it is all over. The closing song is Sid Vicious version of Frank Sinatra’s classic “My Way”. Sinatra’s image, which was so infamously linked to the mafia culture, of class, confidence and respect, opposed to the new version turning it to something arrogant, mocking and cynical; is an insult to the innocent mentality that can find these gangsters charming in any way.

The film ends with an indication that any adoration left must see the grotesque reality of this lifestyle that ends in failure, not in the cinematic version that creates idols. The film documents Henry’s life honestly, but does it through stylized, often exaggerated methods. It requests its audience to relate to the main characters, but in a way so that they can also recognize the immoral conduct of them through a critical approach. References: * Scorsese, M. (1990). [Director]. Goodfellas [Motion Picture]. New York: Warner Bros. * Evans, B. 2010 July, 13). Goodfellas editing analysis [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://extendedproject2010. blogspot. com. au/2010/07/goodfellas. html * afi. (2011 November, 17). Martin Scorsese on GOODFELLAS [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=qV7btRCs3Wc * Pask, S. (2009 September, 28). Goodfellas film analysis [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://paskinss. wordpress. com/2009/09/28/goodfellas-film-analysis/ * McKibbin, T. (n. d. ). Film Style [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://tonymckibbin. com/course-notes/film-style

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