Iʼll make you an offer you still canʼt refuse, even after 40 years.
After reading this, go ahead: bet someone that they canʼt tell you the
true concept at the core of The Godfather movies. Iʼve never lost this
bet. Like drawing an innocent but ambitious young man into the inner
circle of the Don himself, it is a little hard to resist, isnʼt it? Because
we all kind of know what that movie is about, right?
The greatest films of all time are driven by stories that are, in turn,
driven by core concepts, truly defining the soul of a film. In my work of
Concept Modeling with studios and production companies, this
grouping of core concepts is called the quancept. I define it as
significant-concepts. Great writers inject this deeper layer into scripts,
though sometimes just intuitively. Concept Modeling takes what is
intuitive, locks it down and perfects it. Story and concept are two
separate things, kapish? And some concepts can be buried very
deep, like Luca Brasi with the fishes.
Concept is obvious once you see it, but donʼt disregard it; box office
bombs are also obvious in hindsight.
To illustrate Concept Modeling, letʼs analyze The Godfather.

The concept attached to its context

Context is the setting, historical time and place, in which story events
happen. Context shades the meaning of the actions taking place.
The Godfather rests atop the interplay between American and Sicilian
gangster cultures in the 1940s. But that latter culture includes
elements of a third culture. Can you guess? The Catholic culture. The
Godfather is a Catholic term.

As an illustration, the movie opens on a Catholic wedding being
hosted at the Donʼs vast estate in Staten Island. And look at Michael.
He is the all American kid, dressed in his army uniform. In the 1940s,
what could be more American than that? But on a subliminal level he
came dressed to fight a cultural war. Here, on this invisible battlefield,
Catholic wedding vows are set against Mafia vows exchanged in a
dark room. Michael sits outside both cultures, literally, seated at an
isolated table with Kay.

But there is a well-known concept at play here: We have two cultures
temptingly whispering into the ears of American culture. Resting on
Michaelʼs shoulders are two voices . . . one good, one bad . . .
battling it out like the Mafia families in the film. This devil and angel
on my shoulders concept works on an intuitive level. It is hidden but
universal. The interplay between context, story and concept elevates
the film.

The concept attached to the story

This story is about Michael, his return home and his journey to
becoming the Godfather. That story is referenced by another story
and its deeper concept. It is the famous Prodigal Son story, where a
son leaves his father, and his fatherʼs good ways, to go do evil.
Having second thoughts, the repentant son returns to his good
fatherʼs open arms and is forgiven. The deeper concept is
forgiveness.

In The Godfather, we find the opposite of that story. Michael leaves
his father, and his fatherʼs evil ways, to go do good, even joining the
good guysʼ army. He has no second thoughts, until he returns home
and events force him into a choice. Now it is the Godfather who is
brought to remorseful tears at the thought that Michael will be brought
into the Mafia fold, and into his evil way of life.

The veracept at its core

Defined, a veracept is what I call a true concept. Think of it as the
difference between true north and magnetic north. The Godfatherʼs
veracept involves a subtle yet game changing twist.

The Godfather is about the Mafia. But just knowing that is not enough
to make a great film. Concept has to be precise, modeled and
perfected . . . it must capture the essence of the Mafia. Before The
Godfather there were plenty of gangster movies. The Mafiaʼs twist on
gangsters is the family concept.

The Godfatherʼs core concept can be stated like this: How the Mafia
is like a family. It is obvious. But there is more at work here; and this
is where you can win the bet.

The incredible hold The Godfather has on us is in large measure due
to a second core concept. It is a veracept in direct conflict with the
filmʼs magnetic north concept. The Godfather first shows us how the
Mafia is like a family, then shows us how the Mafia is not like a family,
and that is the true core concept. Those dueling concepts hyper-drive
the power behind many of the filmʼs memorable scenes, like the
baptism, where Michael recites the Catholic creed: “Do you reject
Satan?” “I do,” he replies, while his men fulfill Satanʼs work.
Perhaps the ultimate interplay of all of these concepts comes in the
second film: Why is that scene of Michael standing alone in the den
while Fredo is killed so powerful? One reason is that the Prodigal Son
concept is about forgiveness. We all hope that Michael will spare or
forgive sweet, rosary praying Fredo. Michael does not. In that
moment, Michael proves he, by extension the Mafia, is not about
family.

Seems too subtle? Just think of a grizzly bear: a female grizzly is the
most ferocious when protecting her young . . . family. In The
Godfather observe how equally ferocious Michael becomes when
using the family angle to supersize his threats . . . family is Mafia
code for I take this situation to be intensely personal. What could be
more personal and thus deeply threatening, than declaring it is about
my family?

The unique evil underpinning the Mafia involves the warping of family
as a concept. Michaelʼs cold-hearted accent is not on mia FAMIGLIA,
but MIA famiglia. As it turns out, Michael is about Michael.
Can you win the bet now? Get some respect? What a concept!

Xxxxx COMMENTS
Robert MarichWe’re always told The Godfather/mafia is about
family, but this interesting analysis shows the movie series has two
poles—the other is the Godfather characters are at times decidedly
anti-family. Fascinating to drill down to the core. Reply · Like ·
Unfollow Post · May 5, 2013 at 5:50pm

Eileen Grubba · Follow · Top Commenter · 437 followersGreat
article! Really interesting, and you are so very right! All of the
enduring films have this kind of depth that really speaks to so many
of us at our core, without us really even realizing it. Subliminally.
Wonderful article! Thank you, Winston. Reply · Like · Unfollow Post ·
May 4, 2013 at 7:09pm

Winston Perez · CEO and Founder at Concept Modeling,
Inc.Thx. The interesting thing is that the audience “intuits” all of
this — they feel it — that there is something deeper. It applies
to acting, writing, directing — injecting another level into the
mix. Reply · Like · May 6, 2013 at 8:09pm

Adam J. Weiner · Follow · Top Commenter · Northridge,
CaliforniaYou hit oh-so close to my favorite Godfather scene, but I
really knew it the second time I watch II and haven’t forgotten since.
The kiss of death from Michael to Fredo. Great read! Reply · Like ·
Unfollow Post · May 3, 2013 at 12:56pm

Winston Perez · CEO and Founder at Concept Modeling,
Inc.Thanks. Yes that kiss of death scene… so powerful a
scene… brother to brother. Reply · Like · 1 · May 4, 2013 at
10:23am

Shirin Drost · President at Andrea International film
DistributionNice to see why that film is so great…real depth here.
Love that Concept Modeling…you can’t refuse it…
Andrea international Reply · Like · 1 · Unfollow Post · May 2, 2013
at 11:53am

Winston Perez · CEO and Founder at Concept Modeling,
Inc.All great films have this layer of concept that is obvious
once you see it. So we tend to say, yeah o.k. or so?… but then
everything is obvious in hindsight, right?…. the movie either
has depth or it doesn’t. And time almost always proves that —
the ones lacking it will…fade away. Reply · Like · 1 · May 4,
2013 at 11:31am

  • Reply

    Berlynn

    08 08 2016

    A wonderful job. Super helpful inomrfation.

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