Francis Ford Coppola
You can’t argue with perfection. You can’t complain about pure beauty and style. That’s why it’s hard for some people to talk about this classic.
Most people see with their eyes, so they experience Coppola in a way that is flat, superficial and shallow. Imagery and style take many forms in this blood bath of violence and emotional torture.
A cinematic direction that is distinctly 70’s, with the raw and brutal, beautiful and horrific reality of the human condition juxtaposed with the plastic, artificial reasoning and decision making of the “establishment” is never more powerful than in Apocalypse Now (no I have not seen the Redux version yet).
Soldiers faced with chaos and destruction as a normal everyday fact of life become caged animals. What we know now about Vietnam does play a role in how I view this film. Of course, if I had never seen or heard the actual stories of soldiers who had been there first hand, I might not really understand just how intense this film was, is and always will be.
Coppola and his cast of brilliant performers bring a sense of such doom and sadness to this story that it’s hard to take at times. You find yourself trying to convince your brain that it’s just a movie and it’s not really how things were, and yet, because of the genius filmmaking talents, you are faced with the truth and you can’t escape it. That makes the film itself a character like all the rest. A living breathing thing that forces you to react, to be disgusted, sad, worried, hurt, pissed off. You wait patiently as the movie takes you with it down the river, to it’s final destination. The peripheral characters, the humans take on the role of taking action, making the decisions, taking the punishment for the movie’s choices along the journey.
The direction, by the nature of the story, is dark and foreboding. But unlike other quest type stories, where the characters start with some semblance of innocence, courage, determination and naiveté this is a saga we are only stepping into, somewhere after all that humanity is lost. The characters begin a journey already jaded, already beaten down. As you live the tale of this hunt for a rogue Colonel gone mad in the jungle, you see that those with any hint of who they were before they came to this place, to this war, are destroyed. If they are not killed, they’re spirits are crushed and they will remain destroyed forever. There is never one minute of hope or “light at the end of the tunnel” throughout. Only glimpses of what we, who have never seen such horror, would recognize as “normal” life.
Something that is a bit of a comic relief, if you can call it that is a psycho Lt. Col who is obsessed with surfing. Though, as the scenes play out, he brings an even darker tone to the whole situation. His defiance of reality and his willingness to put men in harms way to distract him from his charge is, without being trite, quite surreal.
There is no elegant or succinct way to really describe this movie. Many people have analyzed and extracted what they want to see in the film. I can say it’s historic in cinema, and historic in history. A chronicle of the complete and utter madness that was the Vietnam War.
You will be disturbed by what you see and by what you think, that makes this more than a movie to me, it’s living art.