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Simone & the Godfather:

No, Simone Weil didn't inspire Marlon Brando's famous line, "Make him a deal he can't refuse." Nor do I think Coppola and Puzo had Weil in mind when they wrote Al Pacino's memorable line about staying close to those who are important to you, "Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer." It is true, however, that Simone Weil was just as tough minded about friendship. These words of hers have always been a lesson to me, "Don't expect friendship. Friendship is a miracle."

More to the point, the following sentences from the opening of Weil's, "The Iliad, or the Poem of Force,ß" might have been lifted out of an analysis of Coppola's Godfather trilogy:

In this work, at all times, the human spirit is shown as modified by its relations with force, as swept away, blinded, by the very force it imagined it could handle… To define force – it is that x that turns anybody who is subjected to it into a thing. Exercised to the limit, it turns man into a thing in the most literal sense: it makes a corpse out of him. …

… Thus it happens that those who have force on loan from fate count on it too much and are destroyed.

I started searching for Weil in the Godfather trilogy when I received a message from the American Weil Society stating that Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola had admitted to turning to Weil for inspiration while working on the script for Godfather III. I used this news as an excuse to revisit all three films. However, I found Weil's unmistakable presence only in the scene from the third film where Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) enjoys an Italian meal in Sicily with his ex-wife, Kay Adams (Diane Keaton).

Kay: You know this is dangerous for you, Michael. This is Sicily.

Michael: I love this country.

Kay: Why?

Michael: Well, all through history terrible things have happened to these people, terrible injustices. But they still expect that good rather than bad will happen to them.

Kay: Sort of like me and you, huh?

A paragraph from Weil’s most famous essay, Human Personality, lies behind this conversation:

At the bottom of the heart of every human being, from earliest infancy until the tomb, there is something that goes on indomitably expecting, in the teeth of all experience of crimes committed, suffered, and witnessed, that good and not evil will be done to him. It is this above all that is sacred in every human being.

Have you found Weil's influence in any other scenes in the Godfather? Or have you spotted her in any movies, Saturday Night Live skits, Star Trek episodes, fortune cookie fortunes, or in some other unusual creative project? If so, amaze us all. Send me your startling Weil news.

Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in Godfather III

Photo Copyright © 1990 by Paramount Pictures Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

© Brian Thomas, 2009
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