Goodfellas (1990) Analysis

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Analysis 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.

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 scène, 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...
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