I'm not an Apocalypse Now n00b here. I saw it for the first time a few years ago, and it struck a chord in me. I knew I needed to do a rewatch at some point, but it wasn't the right time for it then. I don't know why it's the right time now.
I haven't been really watching the movie so much as letting it seep into my subconscious as I work on my homework at the same time, all that horror and violence and surrealism fading into the background. Maybe that's how I can stomach it.
I can't say I'm fannish about it. There's so little to grab onto here. There's barely a plot; the characters are all thinly drawn ciphers, even Kurtz; it's too chaotic to have anything resembling world-building. Sure, you can vid it, because it's so visually stunning, but then you have to measure up against Heart of Funkness. It's frustrating, because I usually deal with these sorts of obsessions through fic or vids or something like that. So that I can move on.
It's unarguably a great film, deeply flawed, but still containing that greatness to it. It's like watching Citizen Kane, all that naked ambition on screen. You can see why Zach Snyder wanted to call up the ghost of this movie in Watchmen, and you can see how he failed entirely. There's more to that scene than just "Ride of the Valkyries." There are so many moments of muted horror, wild horror, surreal humor, and sheer chaos. There are parts that kind of make me wince, because holy fucking shit that is fucked up and there is no distance and I don't want to see it in front of me. I don't want to look that deep into the dark places of people, and yet here I am.
On so many levels, it's a white dudely film. The women are to be looked at, coveted, used, though the movie (Redux version, anyway) does give time to try to show some of them as human, desperately trying to assert that humanity to the men around them. The POC are there to die early or to be nameless, threatening masses. And I can't forgive the movie for these things, but like all the deeply problematic media I love, I have to shove it aside, put it away.
It's a movie without a point, without much meaning, and it violates so many of the rules of good storytelling, but it still resonates, deeply, painfully. I think Ebert makes a good argument that the lack of point is the point of the movie; that what makes it so powerful is that it is a giant question mark with no true resolution. It doesn't hand us any pat messages, any easy endings, and a war like Vietnam doesn't deserve one anyway. You walk into the heart of darkness, and maybe you walk out and maybe you don't.
And, oh man, the filming, which I have discovered I am just about obsessed with as well. It came in way over schedule (like, 9 months after its originally scheduled end date) and way over budget (cost twice as much as planned). A typhoon wrecked their sets. Coppola was depressed and incredibly demanding. Brando cost $1 million per week, and he showed up not knowing his lines, and he was so overweight the original script wouldn't have worked anyway. Dennis Hopper needed to be recast and sort of showed up and improvised all his lines on set. They replaced Harvey Keitel with Martin Sheen a couple weeks into shooting. They cast 14-year-old Laurence Fishburne as a 17-year-old soldier.
Of course, for me, the highlight (or lowlight, if you will) of the really long list of things that went shitty with this movie is 36-year-old Martin Sheen's heart attack, which almost killed him during filming. Seriously, that is fucked up. You kind of understand how that happened, though, after seeing this movie and what's asked of him. This movie kind of made me a Martin Sheen fangirl, because he's got the most thankless job in the movie, which is to hold the center together as everything around him goes to shit. At its heart, this movie Willard's journey inwards, and he needs to be utterly compelling the entire time without a lot of dialogue. And he is.
I don't know. I don't believe that you need to bleed or suffer to make great art. I can't. That definition of great art is too limiting for me, too focused on telling one type of story about just a few types of people. But at the the same time, I know this movie wouldn't be half as great as it is if it weren't for the weird dark places of the shoot. Coppola is famous for saying that this movie "isn't about Vietnam. It is Vietnam." And in some ways he's right. This isn't a movie that seeks for realism, and in that, it finds the true, fucked up, center of war and violence.
Okay! Enough of that. There are pictures of delicious egg tarts to be posted later. I'm still trying not to drown under work, and I'm still trying to drag myself away from this fucking movie. But they will be posted. They so totally will.
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