Hi readers…I am back after two months of silence… turmoil in life, turmoil at work… didn’t really feel motivated to share any thoughts…because those thoughts really weren’t worth sharing. But something has happened in the past few days…made a new friend who is a saint. Sometimes one just needs the human touch to come back to life I guess. 😉
So what am I reviewing today? Apocalypse Now. It is not a new movie…infact was released in 1979 – and I remember watching it for the first time in the 80s. I hated it. In fact I remember I went back to the rental shop and asked for my money back…! How these impressions stick in one’s head… as a result I ignored all Saigon movies for the rest of my life. Then suddenly – on HBO – I saw a Marlon Brando special…where they showed a few clippings from Apocalypse… the one in which shaded by dim flickering light – Marlon Brando”s Colonel Kurtz is washing his bald head in water… while Martin Sheen’s Captain Willard is kneeling, tied-up, in front of him. Something struck my matured (and tempered) sensibilities… the sheer dizziness of the movie came back to me after all these ages. And I suddenly wondered – why did I not like this movie? So I got the DVD to give the Francis Ford Coppola’s seminal creation another chance.
“Horror….Horror…” Apocalypse Now is one of the scariest and the most beautiful movies I have ever had the honour to see. The Oscar winning Cinematography is pure art – of the depraved crazy spinning kind – which has been manifested as moving pictures. Every scene has been painted with the desperation and the futility of war – seen through the eyes of Captain Willard. Mind you – there isn’t much violence in this movie – but still it hits harder than 10 Black Hawk Downs. The movie charts the journey of Willard to the untamed interiors of Vietnam – and to the border with Cambodia – where a renegade Colonel Kurtz has started his own little war – not approved by the Pentagon. His orders are to dispose of the Colonel and restore order. As the river-boat with Willard and his 4 men makes its way upstream… the movie shows various pictures of conflict and horror… rarely have I seen such a potent combination of real and un-real shown so effectively on screen. You can’t help but flinching when Willard shoots an injured Vietnamese woman when his crew insists on taking her to a hospital, so that their mission is not delayed – or when you see a handful of “all-but-dead” US soldiers counting their hours away in an an army post where the Commanding Officer had been killed a long time ago. No escape. No Mercy. Just blood, guts and war.
But the real icing on the cake (if there ever was a euphimism!) is Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz.
I checked – he has screen time of less than 15 minutes…but it is one of those roles which will leave an indelible impression on one’s senses…one that will not be wiped away with time. Colonel Kurtz had “gone over”. He had conquered fear – but at the price of his soul. He thought he was God…because in his universe which he had created – he infact was. Copolla somehow (I don’t know many other auteurs who could have managed this) manages to evoke our sympathies for Kurtz – how a rising star in the US army turns into a perpetrator of inhuman genocide. How during war – there are no winners…and how the horror of human depravity comes to the forefront. Sure enough – Willard himself starts sympathizing with Kurtz… but somehow in the helplessness of it all – he sees that Kurtz wants to die. As the jaded Photojournalist (Dennis Hopper) says – “His mind is free…but his soul is dead.”
What happens in the end is for you see and digest… but what the movie leaves you with is a dry mouth. It leaves you shaken, and makes you wonder why the hell do we war? And Apocalypse Now manages this without preaching for a second. That is the real beauty of this movie. I am so glad i decided to revisit this classic again. You should too…
Apocalypse Now (1979) – Running time approx 155 min. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Starring – Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper