The Godfather series, without any doubt, is one of the most iconic movies of all time, with an excellent depiction of the mafia and the underworld. It is an American film, and the dialogue is in English, except for a few, one of which is the dialogue between Virgil Sollozzo and Michael Corleone in the Italian restaurant. It is a significant scene where the discussion continues in Sicilian, which does not have English subtitles. If you have been looking for an English translation of the conversation, this article gets you covered.
English translation of dialogues in The Godfather
Here is the English translation of the Italian dialogues between Michael and Sollozzo.
Sollozzo: “I’m sorry….”
Michael: “Forget about it.”
Sollozzo: “What happened to your father was business. I have much respect for your father. But your father and his thinking are old-fashioned, and you must understand why I had to do that. I am a man of honor.”
Michael: “You don’t need to tell me these things. I understand them. What I want, what’s most important to me, is a guarantee that there’ll be no more attempts on my father’s life.”
[Waiter brings McCluskey’s veal, then exits.]
Sollozzo: Michael, what guarantees can I give you? I’m the hunted one. I missed my chance. I’m not that smart, and you give me too much credit. I think that we can find an agreement. I want peace, and let’s cut all this bullshit and work through where we go.”
Michael: “I want to…How do you say…?” [Then Michael speaks English.]
[Michael returns from the bathroom]
Sollozzo: “Everything all right? I respect myself and cannot allow another man to hold me back. What happened was unavoidable, and I had the unspoken support of the other families’ dons. No disrespect intended but if your father were in better health, without his eldest son running things, we wouldn’t have this nonsense. We will stop fighting until your father is well and can resume bargaining. (It’s very hard to understand this. Sollozzo is chewing words here) No vengeance will be taken. We will have peace, but your family should interfere no longer.” (the sound of the whistle covers most of Sollozzo’s final words, making it a bit unclear)
It is noteworthy how clever Sollozzo is when Michael asks for an assurance that there would be no further attempts at Don Vito’s life. He makes it sound like he isn’t going to try to kill Don Vito Corleone again, but Sollozo gives Michael no such promise and says being the hunted one, he could not give him any guarantee.
Sollozzo was trying to justify his position because it was a business deal. He was nervous about his failure to eliminate Don Vito. Even though he was talking to Michael, he was still trying to find a way to kill Vito and Michael if need be. He was trying to offer a fake apology and gauge where the Corleone family stood. Sollozzo only cared about his end, and Michael understood it.
You might even conclude that Michael is so tense here because he is trying to decide whether to go through with the hit finally. Conceivably, if Sollozzo had given a real promise, maybe Michael would’ve relented at the last moment. But here, Sollozzo is trying to make it sound like he’s giving Michael a guarantee but gives Michael nothing. The latter is too intelligent to be taken in by such an empty answer. So he carries out the hit.
The question itself highlights the brilliance of the technique used in this scene. The words are not necessary and probably would’ve been a distraction. We focus on Michael’s face without hearing the words or seeing them, and we feel his anxiety. The intensity of this scene
The scene’s intensity comes from wondering when Michael will kill these guys? Is the gun in the bathroom? Will Michael be killed? How will this play out?
We do not need to know the dialogue when the scene is about how Michael will pull off the murder and getaway.
Why were there no English subtitles provided for the conversation between Michael and Sollozzo in the Italian restaurant?
The Godfather is an American film with English dialogue. Then why did such an important scene ensue in Italian? Is there an explanation from the filmmakers why there were no English subtitles provided for this particular scene?
There are several reasons for the same-
To begin with, Coppola, the director, claims in the DVD commentary that the actors spoke too quickly for the subtitles to be read correctly, which was a distraction for the audience, so he decided to let the scenario play out visually instead.
Walter Murch (The Godfather’s Film & Sound Editor) explained Coppola’s decision-
“It is very bold, even today, to have an extended scene between two main characters in an English-language film speaking another language with no translation. As a result you’re paying much more attention to how things are said and the body language being used, and you’re perceiving things in a very different way. You’re listening to the sound of the language, not the meaning.“
Moreover, the scene’s intensity is more critical than what Sollozzo is saying. The entire restaurant scene had little to do with the discussions and everything to do with the murders of Sollozzo and McCluskey. It is the turning event in Michael’s life as he begins his journey to becoming the Godfather.
Michael is determined to murder him (and McCluskey) regardless of what Sollozo says. It all plays out in Pacino’s expression and eyes. The audience is also aware of the purpose of this meeting: Michael and Sollozzo are attempting to strike an agreement, but that isn’t the point.
Michael’s emotional and psychological state is crucial. We can focus on Pacino’s incredible performance because the conversation is in a foreign language, is not entirely understandable, and hence “unimportant.” Pacino must accomplish a difficult task here: he must convey his nervousness and hesitation to the spectator while still conveying to the characters in the scene that nothing is out of the ordinary.
Pacino creates a subtly physical performance that brilliantly captures the character’s state without giving anything away to the other characters. The way Michael looks down, the way his shoulders slightly sag, the frustration in his eyes when his Italian fails him—Pacino creates a subtly physical performance that brilliantly captures the character’s state without giving anything away to
Although it was not Coppola’s intention, an English speaker with little to no knowledge of Italian or Sicilian can pick up some of what was said only from listening and hearing cognates. It makes the scene much more interesting than if it were all spelled out.