Evening there blog readers.
Another monday comes and so another FFFD is born.
The long overdue and troubled production is the stuff of film legend. The main actor portraying Willard changed from Harvey Keitel to Martin Sheen, Brando turned up to set hugely overweight and not having done any reading of the script or core material. The film was meant to take six weeks to shoot but eventually went for nearly sixteen months and the budget just went up and up due to natural disasters, heart attacks (Martin Sheen had one) and the editing that took nearly three years.
However, despite all this, the film is an utter masterpiece. The Redux edition adds nearly 50 minutes of new material to increase of overall running time to about three hours but the film itself is incredible.
It remains one of the few films that actually has a real effect on me. It is an experience to watch, and I don't often say that. The film is long, the pacing varies hugely and yet, getting through the whole thing is an event of immense power. The film's start gives hints to the psychotic and philosophical nature of the film, starting with incredible use of The Door's song The End to soundtrack a wall of napalm exploding. However, as the film goes on, the characters start to warp and change and suddenly Willard's mission to assassinate Kurtz is obviously taking a huge toll on everyone as people, as humans.
The casting is inspired. Martin Sheen's Captain Willard is the perfect observer, the introvert man who merely experiences what he sees from an emotional distance. His longing for a mission is seen as an end to his boredom and his desire to be out in the war, his actions throughout the film change as he starts to research Kurtz (who is presumed insane) and his character is the perfect lens to see the crazy events of the film through. The only direct actions he takes in the film are violent.
Marlon Brando's Colonel Kurtz is one of the best places to see why Brando is the best actor of all time. He's overweight, mumbling and ad-libbing and yet every movement he makes is mesmerising, every utterance perfectly pitched and balanced to educate, unsettle and disturb. It is a massive performance from very little screen time. His character is the unsettling truth of the film, an understanding of war as madness and insanity and choosing to extend that to every aspect of his life.
Like all the best war films, Apocalypse Now is not about a war (Vietnam in this case), but about the phenomenon of war. The effect that war has on people is the central point here and it is so depressing and yet powerful. Almost every character that Willard comes across on his journey has a level of morality and justice and is just as capable of kind actions amongst the horror. However, the 'insane' Kurtz sees only immorality and madness in human nature and has chosen to remove himself from moral judgements because what place does morality have in war? He knows that the only escape from what he refers to as 'the horror' is his death and yet he needs someone like him to impart his wisdom to. In that respect, Willard and Kurtz need each other.
The film is one of the few films that I would call a work of art. On a sensory level, the colours, sounds, voices, framing and locales are all so beautiful. Many of the scenes and speeches of the film are now stuff of culture but below all of this aesthetic grandeur is a powerful and real look at people. This is a film which almost always brings me to tears because once it ends, you feel so drained but every minute is a worthwhile one and I would argue that the extra 49 minutes the Redux version introduces may not be necessary to the plot of the film, but it does shape the world more completely.