Classics #1: Apocalypse now

Welcome back to the Jungle.

Martin Sheen

Synopsis: Captain Willard (Sheen) is tasked to take a boat up the Nung river to kill the rouge element Kurtz (Brando)

Starring: Martin Sheen (Willard), Marlon Brando (Kurtz), Robert Duvall (Kilgore), Dennis Hopper (Photo-journalist).

Director: Francis Ford Coppola.

I had the recent pleasure to be able to go to Camerimage international festival in Bydgoszcz, Poland. At the festival, going to the workshops, seminars and generally have an awesome film-tastic time I met two people of great importance. One of them was Walter Murch sound and visual editor (who’s pictured) and Vittorio Storaro, cinematographer extraordinaire. While these two giants of the film industry have gone down very different paths they did work on this small film in the late 1970’s called Apocalypse now (1979).

Josh Lamb Meeting Walter Murch
When I met Walter Murch

For those that haven’t heard of Apocalypse now, it is legendary in many respects. First the fact that it was even made it at all. Commonly seen as one of the most challenging productions of any film. Racked by bad weather, mental breakdowns and a heart attack. I won’t go much more into the details here but for those interested I highly recommend Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmakers Apocalypse (1991) which goes into much more detail about the problems that came about shooting Apocalypse now.

The 1970’s was without a doubt director Francis Ford Coppola’s decade. Having made the Godfather part I (1972), The Conversation (1974) and The Godfather part II (1974) he finished off the decade with a bang. Apocalypse is more than a film; it’s one of the best chronicles of the human experience ever put onto film. As Willard travels up river towards Kurtz he sees first-hand what Vietnam has done to Americans involved. The sights and sounds of Vietnam take over you and absorb you in a world everyone wants to escape from, using methods from denial to drug-taking. Kilgore epitomizes this after booming a village with napalm, killing scores of innocent civilians but is only bothered about the surf.

The film is dense with meaning to be understood, having seen the film three times as of this review I still don’t understand all this film has to offer. However there is one line that has stuck with and does help with understanding Apocalypse. Near the end of the film in a conversation between Willard and the photojournalist, he describes Kurtz in the following way.

‘Why would a nice guy like you want to kill a genius? Why? Because they told you he was crazy? The Colonel is not crazy. The man is clear in his mind, but his soul is mad’.

 

If anything helps to explain the madness that is going around him it is this. Kurtz and Willard share this common trait. Everyone else means well but all you see for their actions is death and psychosis. Only they see what needs to be done, and can ignore the world around them to get what they believe is right done. Escapism is a big deal for Apocalypse.

I could easily ramble on more about the film and its place in film history but ther

e is little point, everything that needs to be said about it has been said already by much clever people than me. Sure indeed there a rich debate that this film has been involved in for the past four decades but this is a viewer’s film at heart. A film that demands to be experienced.

So go watch it!

By Josh Lamb. Give me a follow!

 

 

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