Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Notes on Apocalypse Now

Francis Ford Coppola - 1979

Clip 1 - Intro

The overlaying of images introduces two narratives; the big, historical narrative of the Vietnam war and the 'smaller' narrative of Willard's experiences. Can the film be described as an example of a "interiorisation and personalisation of what are primarily ideological [and political] conflicts" (T. Elsaesser) or does the "journey into the self", as Coppola describes it, merely use a narrative we all know to trigger questions about good/evil, civil/savage and outer/inner - conflicts that takes place within the psyche?

The shifting between spectacular overviews of the Vietnam landscape and close-ups of faces and other details goes through the film - what effect does this have?

Clip 2 - Do Lung Bridge


Through the film there is a gradual change taking place in both pace and mood; just compare this scene with the earlier one at Kilgore's camp and the attack that he commands.

"My film is not about Vietnam, it is Vietnam - it is what it was really like. It was crazy. And the way we made it was very much like the way the Americans were in Vietnam. We were in the jungle, there were too many of us, we had access to too much money, too much equipment and little by little we went insane" - Coppola at Cannes Film Festival 1979

from Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse - a 1991 documentary about the complicated, drawn-out, and almost mythical process of making Apocalypse Now.

The Vietnam War has often been described as the first media war and in Apocalypse Now the photojournalist is everywhere, looking for "the truth". How does the film comment on the war? And what part does the notion of 'reality' play - is Coppola after the Truth? How does he create a reality? To what extent is the Vietnam war created through films like this?;

"...the war the film companies restarted in Vietnam." (J.G. Ballard - The Atrocity Exhibition - written in 1966, 13 years before the completion of Apocalypse Now.)

  • Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad 1902
  • The Crystal World - J.G. Ballard 1966
  • Aguirre, the Wrath of God - Werner Herzog 1972

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