Fatherly Blessings Given and Absent
Building on the previous point, the parallel journeys of Michael Corleone and Perhan Feric as young males differ greatly. Michael's odyssey is one of growing into adulthood, as the Don "blesses" him while passing on the godfather role to him. Perhan, in contrast, is an orphan who never knows his father or mother. In fact, given Hatidza's mythmaking powers, there is no proof that the story she tells Perhan about his parents—that his mother was a very beautiful woman who died in childbirth and his father a handsome Slovenian soldier—is true. Either way, Perhan has no true father to pass on the "blessing" that commentators such as psychiatrist Peter Blos note is necessary for any boy to become a male adult (32). On a psychological level, therefore, Kusturica's protagonist and film are "frozen" in the world of a male adolescent who cannot come of age.
Coppola and Puzo's Michael Corleone has the task of accepting his father's blessing, making sense of his ethnic family and business heritage, and renegotiating these elements within a changing American culture. The male-centeredness of Coppola's trilogy is well captured in the opening sequence of The Godfather . While it is quickly established that the wedding of Don Corleone's daughter is taking place outside on a bright sunny day, the center of attention is the group of men gathered in the Don's darkly lit study. The strong sense of the father never leaves The Godfather trilogy and, we might add, culminates in Godfather III with the father figure of the pope as a significant image.
Perhan's world in Time in the Gypsies is quite the opposite. The film's opening shot of the unhappy fat bride has already been mentioned. From this shot on, Kusturica surrounds Perhan with women. He cares, for instance, for his sick sister (his initial reason for leaving home with the gypsy godfather is to help heal his sister).
But most important, his life intertwines with his true love, Azra (Simolicka Trpkova). It is with Azra that he first experiences love, sex, and companionship and, ultimately, marriage, the birth of a son (which may or may not have been fathered by his uncle), and death, as Azra dies in Italy. Perhan's
conflicted feelings for Azra—should he believe that her son is his?—are, of course, another expression of his failure to find an appropriate father figure to help him grow into maturity.
In an earlier scene, however, there are no conflicts at all. Kusturica orchestrates one of the most hauntingly beautiful scenes of sexual initiation ever to reach the silver screen. The moment happens immediately after Perhan's grandmother has described his parents to him. The scene is presented as a dream, as we see Perhan float through the sky clutching his beloved pet turkey on Saint George's day as a hymn to Saint George plays throughout on the sound track. As Perhan (and the camera) come down to earth, we see a river scene. Hundreds of gypsies with torches are gathered by the river to celebrate Saint George's day. On the river is a small wooden boat floating with Perhan and Azra, bare-chested, lying next to each other, playfully involved with each other.
Desire, religion, ritual, nature, music, and magic realism (dreams) all flow together in one "mirage" of sexual awakening. It is a joyous scene, the happiest moment of the film. Everything else in Perhan's life becomes a falling away from this moment of union with the woman he loves.
Nothing similar exists in the Godfather films. Men in Coppola's male-centered world exhibit no such pure joy in the presence of women, ritual, religion. Diane Keaton's "outsider's" role as Kay Adams is that of a proper Mafia wife and mother, with no sexuality presented or explored. Something much closer to the world of Time of the Gypsies is hinted at, of course, in the Sicilian romance and marriage scene as the young Michael courts a Sicilian beauty who is finally killed by a car bomb meant for Michael. But we never feel the completely embracing sense of women of all types that we feel in Kusturica's gypsy world.
Finally, for Perhan's female-centered universe we should mention the influence of his long-dead mother. She is represented by a wedding veil that trails through the sky at several points in the film. As Perhan dies, shot in the back by the godfather's new bride ("You ruined my wedding, you bastard!"), he looks heavenward and sees a combined image of the veil and his dead turkey, an image that unites his mother, Azra, and his pet.
Thus, much of the poignancy of Kusturica's film is that of a young male unable to become a man who both appreciates (loves) and fears the power and mystery of women.