Reviewed by Peter Veugelaers Ó
- Who said they don't make em like they used to?
Now stands out because of a few powerful sequences and
characters: a battle sequence at the beginning set to Wagner’s music; Robert Duvall’s
egotistical and farcical Colonel Kilgore who would sooner surf during battle, and
celebrate the war; the climax at the mouth of the river highlighted by Willard’s
confrontation with Marlon Brando’s Kurtz; and the moody surreal atmosphere that explores
man’s heart of darkness.
It is not
just Vittorio Storano’s moody atmospheric photography that makes Apocalypse Now
highly textured. It is mainly because Apocalypse Now is brooding and introverted – it
looks to the heart of the matter, hearts encumbered with war. It asserts how and why war is
self-destructive and does so more powerfully.
This is a
lamentation about the Vietnam War, war itself and human nature. Based on Joseph Conrad’s
novel Heart of Darkness, Orson Welles wanted to be the first to film the book. When
financial limitations enabled him, thirty years later director Francis Ford Coppola
translates Conrad’s vision into a compelling allegory of inhumanity.
through the eyes of Captain Willard (Martin Sheen), war is an ever-decreasing circle. While
in Saigon, during the Vietnam War, he is awaiting his next mission. When approached by the
U.S. military he is assigned to “terminate with extreme prejudice” a subversive Colonel.
Once a celebrated military man, E. W Kurtz (Marlon Brando) has taken control of a community
of Vietnamese. Kurtz uses “unsound” methods to eliminate dissidents and to contain the
tyrannical status quo.
Willard heads towards his destination to assassinate Kurtz, the irony is not lost. The voice
over narration contemplates why Kurtz is being singled out for the day of destruction, when
there is enough insanity and murder going on all around. Scene follows scene portraying
Willard’s increasing revelation of Kurtz’s character, his victories and descent into madness
and maybe genius.
Especially witty is the film’s ascent into farce, which works as a powerful way
of communicating the defeatism of violence. Robert Duvall as Colonel Kilgore takes centre
stage as a war-mongering eccentric. His distracted interest in surfing the Vietnam coast
underlines this war’s self-destructiveness. The young soldiers, as puppets of a careless
military and government, happily pull triggers on the innocence. With all this despair there
is no room for hope. War has been portrayed and philosophised, made subject of ridicule, but
has not been comprehended. Under these circumstances, naturally the medicine for this
predicament is death – the recipe Kurtz believes is the answer. There is no redemption from
war according to this film and no forgiveness for the instigators of American involvement in
the Vietnam War.