Films, TV series, music, photography, you name it, they all show a select audience a certain theme or message. But most directors and photographers go beyond the “surface” message to incorporate several hidden themes or ideologies. Some ideas are so subtle and subconscious that it’s not until you go looking for them that they present themselves. This is very much the case with the Netflix original, “The Irishman.”
“The Irishman,” directed by Martin Scorsese, follows a hitman working for the Bufalino crime family out of Pennsylvania, USA. The film is based on the true story of the disappearance of teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa.
However, within “The Irishman” there are a lot of hidden messages and characteristics that go unnoticed throughout its three-hour runtime. One of those hidden messages and characteristics being the obvious global mobility and hidden diversity prevalent within the film.
The protagonists’ hidden messages
The film’s two protagonists, Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) and Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) are both cross-cultural people. They are from completely different backgrounds but still show some form of connection through the cross-cultural parts of their lives.
Sheeran and Bufalino’s connection are shown very early in the film, within a scene that is one of the more “prominent shots of the entire viewing.” Within this scene we learn more about the protagonists, as well as the reason for their quick relatability.
The scene in “The Irishman” is the first major interaction between the two protagonists and starts out with a panning shot of the two eating Italian breads and drinking red wine. They are both speaking to one another in Italian as Bufalino inquires where Sheeran learnt to speak such good Italian.
Firstly, before we go into Sheeran’s globally mobile and diverse story, we need to touch on the story of Buffalino.
Bufalino is an immigrant who migrated to the U.S.A. in 1904 with his father and mother from Italy. Throughout the film he portrays many U.S. characteristics, far different to his Italian heritage. This is a form of hidden diversity, one that many people throughout the world can relate too. Despite Bufalino’s obvious pride in being Italian, he does not look any different from the surrounding people within Pennsylvania.
‘Irishman’ Frank Sheeran’s unique cross-cultural life
As for Sheeran, he was born in the U.S.A. As we come to learn in this important scene, he explains that he learned Italian and the Italian culture around “dining and wining” during his 1,000-plus days spent in Italy during World War II as a soldier. This would make him a Third Culture Adult as he is stationed there for so long and 624 days were spent out of combat, living within Italian towns and villages.
Nadia Smith, who reviewed “The Irishman” in New Zealand, said in an interview: “The hidden complexity of the characters is yet another thing that makes them more interesting to the audience.”
“It also helps to explain the bond they share from very early on in the film,” Smith added.
Both these characters stem from such vastly different lives, but come together and bond over key experiences that they both share with Italian culture. Their experiences are developed through unorthodox methods — one an immigrant with an Italian father, the other a soldier who spent significant time around Italian culture. This is an idea or experience that is becoming much more common in today’s globalizing world.