Film: Apocalypse Now

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Film:

Apocalypse Now

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Honors:
Genres:
Distributor: Paramount

In the tradition of such obsessively driven directors as Erich von Stroheim and Werner Herzog, Francis Ford Coppola approached the production of Apocalypse Now as if it were his own epic mission into the heart of darkness. On location in the storm-ravaged Philippines, he quite literally went mad as the project threatened to devour him in a vortex of creative despair, but from this insanity came one of the greatest films ever made. It began as a John Milius screenplay, transposing Joseph Conrad’s classic story “Heart of Darkness” into the horrors of the…

Reviews

Amazon.com

In the tradition of such obsessively driven directors as Erich von Stroheim and Werner Herzog, Francis Ford Coppola approached the production of Apocalypse Now as if it were his own epic mission into the heart of darkness. On location in the storm-ravaged Philippines, he quite literally went mad as the project threatened to devour him in a vortex of creative despair, but from this insanity came one of the greatest films ever made. It began as a John Milius screenplay, transposing Joseph Conrad’s classic story “Heart of Darkness” into the horrors of the Vietnam War, following a battle-weary Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) on a secret upriver mission to find and execute the renegade Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), who has reverted to a state of murderous and mystical insanity. The journey is fraught with danger involving wartime action on epic and intimate scales. One measure of the film’s awesome visceral impact is the number of sequences, images, and lines of dialogue that have literally burned themselves into our cinematic consciousness, from the Wagnerian strike of helicopter gunships on a Vietnamese village to the brutal murder of stowaways on a peasant sampan and the unflinching fearlessness of the surfing warrior Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall), who speaks lovingly of “the smell of napalm in the morning.” Like Herzog’s Aguirre: The Wrath of God, this film is the product of genius cast into a pit of hell and emerging, phoenix-like, in triumph. Coppola’s obsession (effectively detailed in the riveting documentary Hearts of Darkness, directed by Coppola’s wife, Eleanor) informs every scene and every frame, and the result is a film for the ages. —Jeff Shannon

Barnes and Noble

Reenvisioning Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad’s classic novella about the evils of imperialism, as a story about America’s involvement in Vietnam, Francis Ford Coppola created a work of art as powerful and haunting as the original. Military agent Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) is assigned the task of “terminating” the leadership of Kurtz (Marlon Brando), a renegade American colonel who has gone insane and disappeared into the Cambodian jungle. As Willard travels by boat through Vietnam in search of the mysterious Kurtz, the panorama of the Vietnam War, in all its horror and absurdity, unfolds. The acting is uniformly remarkable, with a memorable turn by Robert Duvall as the half-mad Colonel Kilgore, who “loves the smell of napalm in the morning,” and a great debut by 14-year-old Laurence Fishburne as a young soldier. Vittorio Storaro’s brilliant camera work and an inspired use of the Doors’ ominous anthem, “The End,” capture the druggy, nightmarish atmosphere of the “psychedelic war”; the film won two Oscars, for cinematography and sound. Coppola spent five harrowing years bringing this masterpiece to the screen (see the documentary on its making, Hearts of Darkness), and it was worth it. Mythical, impressionistic, and horrifying, Apocalypse Now is a stunning achievement that ranks as the best of the many movies made about the Vietnam conflict.

Kryssa Schemmerling

Related Works

Book:Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad

A masterpiece of twentieth-century writing, Heart of Darkness (1902) exposes the tenuous fabric that holds “civilization” together and the brutal horror at the center of European colonialism. Conrad’s crowning achievement recounts Marlow’s physical and psychological journey deep into the heart of the Belgian Congo in search of the mysterious trader Kurtz.

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