Catholicism vs the Orthodox Faith
Coppola's trilogy draws a deeply ambivalent portrait of the Catholic Church and uses Catholic ritual as an important structuring device within the films. Kusturica's film, similarly uses church ritual and custom throughout, but it is the Orthodox faith of the Balkans (more specifically, the Serbian Ortho-
dox tradition). The prime example is the one just given: Perhan's sexual initiation takes place within the comforting frame of a traditional religious holiday, Saint George's Day. Religion for the gypsies is tied together with family, tradition, custom, culture, and personal identity.
It is not so in The Godfather . Clearly, one can map out The Godfather according to the Catholic rituals of a wedding, funerals, and, finally, a baptism. But Coppola introduces Catholicism in order to undercut it ironically (Hess, 84). For it is during a baptism that the baptism of blood takes place in parallel editing, as Michael has ordered a shooting of all rivals at the very moment he is at his sister's child's baptism. For Coppola's gangsters, Catholicism is omnipresent. But it is simply part of being "Italian American," rather than a spiritual force capable of guiding individuals in their lives. John Hess speaks well of Coppola's critical view of the church: "Religion is still an important prop of bourgeois ideology, and the church also represents a community of sorts. But by juxtaposing it with its opposite—murder, hatred, brutality—Coppola implicates the Church in this activity. By showing the Church's inability to comfort anyone, Coppola shows its impotence. It is one more bourgeois ideal that does not work" (87).
Godfather III caps all of Coppola's ambivalent feelings about the church, of course, as even the Vatican is drawn into mob activity.
Religion, finally, for Kusturica and his gypsy culture, is tied strongly to folk mysticism as the dreamlike magic realism scenes of floating veils and the floating pet turkey viewed in death, as well as the whole motif of Perhan's telekinetic powers, suggest. For the gypsies, Time of the Gypsies suggests, are part pagan, part Christian, part believers, part passionate hedonists. As in their lives, so in their faith: they live within a sense of multiple possibilities.