(Goodfellas is the film adaptation of the non-fiction book ?Wiseguy?, written by Nicholas Pileggi. The film charts the rise and fall of Henry Hill?s thirty year career within the New York mafia. The film was released in 1990 and was directed by Martin Scorsese. Goodfellas stars Ray Liotta as Henry Hill, Lorraine Bracco as Karen Hill (Henry?s Wife), Robert Dc Niro as James Conway and Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito.
The film begins with one of the most horrific and sickening moments to appear in a film, the murder of Billy Batts. At this point the viewer knows nothing of the background events that run up to this scene. Additionally, the characters are not yet known, so there is no emotional baggage being carried with the characters that might detract from the degree of sickening violence contained within the scene. Even more shocking is the fact that the scene ends with the voiceover by Henry saying, ?As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster?. This statement seems absurd after witnessing such a callous murder, why would anybody want to be involved in such things? This is precisely what Scorsese wants the viewer to think, he has drawn the viewer in.
Narration is an important mechanism that Scorsese employs throughout the film. The narration is carried out by both Henry and Karen Hill. What this tells the viewer is that the events being shown have already occurred. The narrators are telling the stoly in the past tense. This could have introduced a major problem, by having only Henry narrate throughout the film the viewer would know that He survived the lifestyle. Having Karen narrate as well has allowed Scorsese to introduce an element of doubt into the film, the viewer no longer knows whether either of them will survive. Karen?s narration also allows Scorsese to show how Karen?s life changes throughout the story, and introduces her view on events.
The purpose of the narration is to smooth over the various jumps in the story. Throughout the film sub-stories change quickly, narration is the device that covers the holes. Without narration the viewer would become lost very quickly, and may not fully understand events. At the beginning of the film, Henry is shown as a young boy looking out of his bedroom window admiring the lifestyle of the local ?Wiseguys?. Here follows a very quick succession of events that show how his character gets involved with these people and what he does to earn more respect from them and eventually be accepted into their group. The narration explains why he admires them so much, ?They did whatever they wanted?, why he wants to part of their group and why he does what he does, ?It was about being somebody in a neighbourhood of nobodies?.
Within the film there are four main characters; Henry Hill, Karen Hill, Tommy DeVito, and James Conway. Henry and Karen are the only characters that are followed throughout the film. On the whole, character development is kept to a minimum. For...