During the Vietnam War, the young American Captain Willard is given the assignment to hunt down and kill one of his own: Colonel Kurtz who has apparently gone insane, murdered hundreds of innocent people, and constructed a strange kingdom for himself deep in the jungle. Willard and his crew embark on a surreal river journey to find Kurtz, meeting along the way a Lieutenant-Colonel who surfs during live combat, Playboy bunnies dropped in by helicopter to entertain rowdy troops, and the inhabitants of a French plantation trapped in colonial times.
The renegade Green Beret Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando)
AWOL Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando)
One of a cluster of late-1970s films about the Vietnam War, Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now adapts the Joseph Conrad novella Heart of Darkness to depict the war as a descent into primal madness. Capt. Willard (Martin Sheen), already on the edge, is assigned to find and deal with AWOL Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando), rumored to have set himself up in the Cambodian jungle as a local, lethal godhead. Along the way Willard encounters napalm and Wagner fan Col. Kilgore (Robert Duvall), draftees who prefer to surf and do drugs, a USO Playboy Bunny show turned into a riot by the raucous soldiers, and a jumpy photographer (Dennis Hopper) telling wild, reverent tales about Kurtz. By the time Willard sees the heads mounted on stakes near Kurtz's compound, he knows Kurtz has gone over the deep end, but it is uncertain whether Willard himself now agrees with Kurtz's insane dictum to "Drop the Bomb. Exterminate them all."…..
( Lucia Bozzola, All Movie Guide)
The production experienced shut-downs when a typhoon destroyed the set and star Sheen suffered a heart attack; the budget ballooned and Coppola covered the overages himself. These production headaches, which Coppola characterized as being like the Vietnam War itself, have been superbly captured in the documentary, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse. Despite the studio's fears and mixed reviews of the film's ending, Apocalypse Now became a substantial hit and was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for Duvall's psychotic Kilgore, and Best Screenplay. It won Oscars for sound and for Vittorio Storaro's cinematography. This hallucinatory, Wagnerian project has produced admirers and detractors of equal ardor; it resembles no other film ever made, and its nightmarish aura and polarized reception aptly reflect the tensions and confusions of the Vietnam era.
( Lucia Bozzola, All Movie Guide)
Production: United Artists; initial release in color, 70mm, Dolby sound; later releases in color, 35mm, Dolby sound with added footage of large-scale air attack which serves as backdrop for credit sequence; running time: 153 minutes, also 139 minutes. Released 1979. Filmed 1976–77, though pre-production work began mid-1975 and post-production lasted until 1979; shot on location in the Philippines; cost: about $30,000,000.
Producer: Francis Ford Coppola; screenplay: John Milius and Francis Ford Coppola suggested by the novella Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad; narration: Richard Marks; photography: Vittorio Storaro; editor: Richard Marks; sound: Walter Murch, Mark Berger, Richard Beggs, and Nat Boxer; production designer: Dean Tavoularis; art director: Angelo Graham; original music: Carmine Coppola and Francis Ford Coppola; song: "This Is the End" by the Doors; special effects: A. D. Flowers.
Cast: Marlon Brando ( Colonel Walter E. Kurtz ); Robert Duvall ( Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore ); Martin Sheen ( Captain Benjamin L. Willard ); Frederic Forrest ( Chef ); Albert Hall ( Chief ); Sam Bottoms ( Lance ); Larry Fishburne ( Clean ); Dennis Hooper ( Freelance photographer ); G. D. Spradlin ( General ); Harrison Ford ( Colonel ).
Awards: Oscars for Best Cinematography and Best Sound, 1979; Palme d'Or (Shared with The Tin Drum ), Cannes Film Festival, 1979.
(Apocalypse Now - Film (Movie) Plot and Review - Publications at filmreference.com)
The opening scene :
THE END BY THE DOORS
This is the end
This is the end
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I'll never look into your eyes...again
Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free
Desperately in need...of some...stranger's hand
In a...desperate land
Lost in a romance...wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain, yeah
Hotel room in Saigon :
"Saigon, shit. I'm still only in Saigon. Every time I think I'm going to wake up back in the jungle. When I was home after my first tour, it was worse. I'd wake up and there'd be nothing... I hardly said a word to my wife until I said yes to a divorce. When I was here I wanted to be there. When I was there, all I could think of was getting back into the jungle. I've been here a week now. Waiting for a mission, getting softer. Every minute I stay in this room I get weaker. And every minute Charlie squats in the bush he gets stronger. Each time I look around the walls move in a little tighter. Everyone gets everything he wants. I wanted a mission, and for my sins they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service. "
"How many people had I already killed? There was those six that I know about for sure. Close enough to blow their last breath in my face. But this time it was an American and an officer. That wasn't supposed to make any difference to me, but it did. Shit...charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets in the Indy 500. I took the mission. What the hell else was I gonna do? But I didn't know what I'd do when I found him."
(Screenplays for you)
In boat :
"I was being ferried down the coast in a Navy PBR, a type of plastic patrol boat, pretty common sight on the rivers. They said it was a good way to pick up information without drawing lot of attention. That was OK, I needed the air and the time. Only problem was I wouldn't be alone."
(Screenplays for you)
Willard starts reading Kurtz' dossier :
MLPJC - 177TS007
TO: WILLARD, BENJAMIN L., Cpt. USA
U.S. Armed Forces Intelligence Hq.
SUBJECT: Special Warfare Information, KURTZ, WALTER E., Col., Special Forces
1946 - Graduates West Point; second in Class; third-generation appointee. Completes Basic Training, Advanced Infantry Training, Fort Gordon, Georgia.
47-48 - Assigned, West Berlin, U.S. Sector Command, G-1 (Plans) Promoted 1st Lt.
49-50 - Masters Degree, Harvard University, History (Thesis: The Phillipines Insurrection: American Foreign Policy in Southeast Asia, 1898-1905.)
50-51 - Assigned General Staff, U.S. Command, Seoul, Korea. Tours combat zones, Division-Evaluation Team. Requests transfer to Intelligence, returned U.S. for special training, Ft. Holabird and Washington. (Marries, Janet Anderson, 14 June 1951.) Returns to active duty, C-2, Seoul; Debriefs and evaluates information from American agents returning from Northern missions. Promoted Captain.
"At first, I thought they handed me the wrong dossier. I couldn't believe they wanted this man dead. Third generation West Point, top of his class. Korea, Airborne. About a thousand decorations. Etc, etc... I'd heard his voice on the tape and it really put a hook in me. But I couldn't connect up that voice with this man. Like they said he had an impressive career. Maybe too impressive... I mean perfect. He was being groomed for one of the top slots of the corporation. General, Chief of Staff, anything... In 1964 he returned from a tour of advisory command in Vietnam and things started to slip. The report to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Lyndon Johnson was restricted. Seems they didn't dig what he had to tell them. During the next few months he made three requests for transfer to airborne training in Fort Benning, Georgia. And he was finally accepted. Airborne ? He was 38 years old. Why the fuck would he do that ? 1966 he joined the Special forces, returns to Vietnam ..."
(Screenplays for you)
“Apocalypse Now”, from the opening shot of the film it’s obvious that you are about to witness something great and spectacular. The whole film lives up to that first feeling, as it is a truly a phenomenal movie throughout.
The real war that lasted for more then 15 years and killed over 4 million people, had a huge impact on generations, mentally and physically, leaving us with history, mistakes to be learned from, as well as some of the most memorable films, music, photographs, books, TV shows, to date.
“Apocalypse Now”, conveys a truly disturbing, freshly raw, dangerous, bloody, inhumane and crazy war that Vietnam war was, as we follow Capitan Benjamin L. Willard on his classified mission……
By regnif at photobucket.com
One of the best decisions made by Mr. Coppala was to bring Vittorio Storaro as a Director of Cinematography. Unquestionably a master in his field, Mr. Storaro brought his own unique and superb style to this grand picture. Every single shot is a masterpiece, every single light flare has an impact, and every single movement of the camera has a purpose, making you believe that you are watching something on Discovery/National Geographic/History channel, as raw and as vivid and as impactful as only a real image can be. Vittario Storaro went to win an Oscar for his work on the film, and later worked and won the Academy Award for his work as a Cinematographer for “Reds” and “The Last Emperor”.
Martin Sheen, an actor with more then 200 films and TV role credits, who plays Capitan Benjamin L. Willard in “Apocalypse Now”, gives a bright and wonderful performance. His character, crashed by the darkness of war was portrayed by Martin in a very subtle and perfect way, or just what was needed to make this performance as real as possible. It wouldn’t appear that he was never a soldier. His actions and dialogue delivered in a controlled way, as intended for this character, mostly showing the pain of a lost and confused mind of a soldier through the expression in his eyes. Rare and remarkable for any actor to do.
It will be fair to say that this lengthy film is a one actor show. Even the great Marlon Brando and Robert Duvall, amongst many other supporting role characters, were only there for the story and for Martin Sheens’ character to interact. Never the less, all give a wonderful performance…..
Sheen's mission becomes a screaming trip into madness, paved by a cast dragged from Hollywood's Narcotics Anonymous. Hopper plays a photojournalist disciple of Kurtz, while Duvall plays Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore, a surf-obsessed maniac who rains down fire on Vietnamese villages to a soundtrack of Wagner's 'Ride Of The Valkyries'.
Coppola's own mental health deteriorated during the troubled filming, but the result is a war movie unlike any other: a spectacular opera, a straightforward plot blown up by rampant imagination, and a deft comment on America's Vietnam folly.
An immense Vietnam War epic, Apocalypse Now fully realises the chaos and absurdity of this jungle conflict before slipping into the same trap. Opening with the hypnotic beat of helicopter blades, the scene merges with Captain Willard's (Martin Sheen) view of a lazily spinning ceiling fan. In his Saigon hotel room Willard inhabits a private purgatory, unable to function at home in the States yet reluctant to return to the front line. Used to working alone on top secret missions Willard is briefed on his final task, an operation which doesn't exist and never took place…..
Continuing up the river, where for the most part the shore is unbroken vegetation, the bizarre interludes continue. At a re-fueling site the resident GIs are in a frenzy over the visiting Playboy Playmates. Starved of feminity, the rowdy crowd soon storms the stage and forces a premature departure for the centre-folds. A little later the gunboat crew search an innocent junk and, in one of those inexplicable accidents, massacre the occupants. Typical of the entire war, this tragedy is nobody's responsibility but everyones fault. Eventually the signs of Kurtz's realm start to become obvious, mostly through the corpse littered shore and the severed heads impaled on poles. Willard is still unclear on how to deal with Kurtz, perhaps hoping that simply meeting him will force a decision. Surrounded by natives, who worship Kurtz as a god, Willard soon gets his opportunity.
A staggering achievement just to film, Apocalypse Now is a vivid and immediate reminder of how cock-eyed the Vietnam War really was. Shooting over-budget and over-length in much the same way as the conflict, it's a testament to his determination that Coppola managed to produce anything at all (considering that Sheen had a heart-attack and that Coppola had to invest his own money). The Philippine locations are used to stunning effect, evoking the heat and humidity of the jungle with its latent menace and danger. The photography really is excellent, capturing a broad spectrum of colours, tones and contrasts as the gunboat slides through water which varies from the sleepily oily to the tumultuous…..
(A review by Damian Cannon.
Copyright © Movie Reviews UK 1997)
Willard met Kurtz. Kurtz was sitting in the temple and read T.S. Eliot's poem The Hollow Men :
"We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;"
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" I've seen horrors...horrors that you've seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that...But you have no right to judge me. It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face...And you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies. I remember when I was with Special Forces...Seems a thousand centuries ago...We went into a camp to innoculate the children. We left the camp after we had innoculated the children for Polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every innoculated arm. There they were in a pile...A pile of little arms. And I remember...I...I...I cried... I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn't know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget. And then I realized...like I was shot...Like I was shot with a diamond...a diamond bullet right through my forehead...And I thought: My God...the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we. Because they could stand that these were not monsters...These were men...trained cadres...these men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love...but they had the strength...the strength...to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral...and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordal instincts to kill without feeling...without passion... without judgement...without judgement. Because it's judgement that defeats us. "
(Screenplays for you)
Francis Ford Coppola’s feverish anti-war epic Apocalypse Now actually began its journey to screen in the late sixties when Über-macho filmmaker John Milius attempted to meet the challenge presented to him when he was informed that no one had successfully adapted Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness, although several had tried, including luminaries such as Orson Welles. His original screenplay was true to Milius’s conservative, pro-military outlook, containing a great deal of praise for the warrior lifestyle and nothing but contempt for the hippies he saw protesting against the Vietnam War…..
When Kurtz asks Willard what he was told about the colonel, Willard replies that the generals told him that Kurtz was insane and his methods were completely unsound. The film’s dark sense of absurdity is encapsulated by that one line, as if Kurtz’s insanity would have been okay if only his methods were “sound.” The character of Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall) seems to be on hand to serve as a counterweight to Kurtz. There is little doubt as to Kilgore’s insanity but, because his madness fits within the accepted norms of the war, no one is sent off to assassinate him.
The source of Kurtz’s “madness” appears to be a moment of complete clarity when he realized that the only way the United States would ever defeat the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong was if we could be even more ruthless and brutal than the communists were. In Kurtz’s eyes, America’s need to occupy the moral high ground had robbed americans of the will they needed to win the war.
Much is made of the fact that Kurtz’s assassination of four South Vietnamese double agents appeared to curtail VC activity in the area and the North Vietnamese genuinely feared Kurtz and his private army of Montagnard highlanders. In short, he appears to be the only one fighting the war effectively while Kilgore chases the VC all over Vietnam, winning every battle while never gaining us one inch toward an overall victory. Because Kurtz’s methods would be unpalatable back home, however, he has to go.
The Vietnam War offered huge dramatic possibilities for film but it was surrounded by self imposed censorship. Eventually as Americans were no longer afraid to question military decisions, government motives and the purpose of the war, Vietnam entered the system of representation.
Vietnam was a war in limbo, unaffected by dates or place names. Consequently, Hollywood films struggled to apply the usual generic conventions. Instead they focused on men in combat, avoided historical specificity, repressed politically sensitive issues and blamed GI’s for the ideology that led America into war. Due to this lack of historical accuracy, representations of the war in Vietnam say more about Hollywood ideology than Vietnam itself.
Apocalypse Now was rich in horror, madness, sensuousness and moral dilemmas. Willard’s mission is to travel up river to Cambodia and exterminate Colonel Walter Kurtz using extreme prejudice. He is a military wonder boy who has quite obviously gone insane.
Kurtz labels Willard an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks to collect a bill but he actually has six assassinations to his name. He has been conditioned to kill and feels more strongly about the government handling of the war than loss of lives. He insists upon truth above humanity: We’d cut em in half with machine guns and give them a band aid. It was a lie (Apocalypse Now). The innocent are punished to prevent those responsible from avoiding blame…..
The costly, secretive, remote and highly publicised production of the film resembled Americas handing of the war. Both ended ambiguously and suffered accusations that they lacked purpose or vision It could be argued that Deer Hunter was racist, fascist and sentimental but unlike Apocalypse Now, it was not considered a failure. Coppola favoured style over content and so he sacrificed part of the essential political message.
The public did not know who the US fought, who won, who the allies were and why they fought there. Apocalypse Now is not just a visually explosive and slick war epic but a metaphor to describe this version of Vietnam.
(Hana Lewis , Hollywood and Vietnam: Review of Apocalypse Now: Politics, Ideology and Marlon Brando in Ford Coppola's War Epic at war-films.suite101.com)