The famous horse head scene in The Godfather (written by Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo, based on Puzo’s novel).
Setup: After refuting Mafia consigliere Tom Hagen’s ‘request’ to select Johnny Fontane for an upcoming movie, Hollywood producer Jack Woltz sleeps in his mansion.
INT DAY: WOLTZ'S BEDROOM (SUMMER 1945) It is large, dominated by a huge bed, in which a man, presumably WOLTZ, is sleeping. Soft light bathes the room from the large windows. We move closer to him until we see his face, and recognize JACK WOLTZ. He turns uncomfortably; mutters, feels something strange in his bedsheets. Something wet. He wakens, feels the sheets with displeasure; they are wet. He looks at his hand; the wetness is blood. He is frightened, pulls aside the covers, and sees fresh blood on his sheets and pajamas. He grunts, pulls the puddle of blood in his bed. He feels his own body frantically, moving, down, following the blood, until he is face to face with the great severed head of Khartoum lying at the foot of his bed. Just blood from the hacked neck. White reedy tendons show. He struggles up to his elbows in the puddle of blood to see more clearly. Froth covers the muzzle, and the enormous eyes of the animal are yellowed and covered with blood. WOLTZ tries to scream; but cannot. No sound comes out. Then, finally and suddenly an ear-splitting scream of pure terror escapes from WOLTZ, who is rocking on his hands and knees in an uncontrolled fit, blood all over him.
Here is the scene from the movie:
Questions to ask to analyze the scene:
* What elements in the movie scene are the same as the script?
* What elements in the movie scene are different than the script?
* Regarding the differences, put yourself in the mindset of the filmmakers and speculate: Why did they make the changes they did?
* How did the changes improve the scene?
* Alternatively are there elements in the script, not present in the movie, that are better than the final version of the scene?
* Note each camera shot in the movie version. Which of them does the script suggest via sluglines or scene description?
* How does the script convey a sense of the scene’s tone, feel, and pace through scene description and dialogue?
* What ‘magic’ exists in the movie that is not indicated in the words of the script? How do you suppose that magic emerged?
I’ll see you in comments for a discussion of this terrific scene from The Godfather.
One of the single best things you can do to learn the craft of screenwriting is to read the script while watching the movie. After all a screenplay is a blueprint to make a movie and it’s that magic of what happens between printed page and final print that can inform how you approach writing scenes. That is the purpose of Script to Screen, a weekly series on GITS where we analyze a memorable movie scene and the script pages that inspired it.