Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991) (R)
"Apocalypse Now" had its share of difficulties...that would be an understatement. The film, which I saw for the first time yesterday and was blown away by, is infamous for how everything seemed to fail. Movies always have some problems...just look at "Jaws" and the struggles Spielberg had to overcome when bringing his star-making movie to the screen.
But Francis Ford Coppola had much more to face when directing "Apocalypse Now"—it was a battle with himself.
Much of the Coppola's film deals with the insanity of war and how it affects Captain Willard, so it seems only fit that the making of the movie had the same outcome on all of those involved.
"Hearts of Darkness: A Flimmaker's Apocalypse" begins with footage of the Cannes Film Festival where "Apocalypse Now" debuted. Coppola is asked a question about Vietnam and his movie. He responds by saying that his film is not about Vietnam...it is Vietnam. It was a battle to shoot, the conditions were similar to those in the war...and everyone went insane.
"Hearts of Darkness: A Flimmaker's Apocalypse" is told partly through interviews and partly through archival footage preserved by Coppola's wife, Eleanor.
We get to understand the idea behind the film a little better; that is, that there was no idea. The project was hot-potatoed around before it eventually fell back into Coppola's lap. Previous attached to direct the movie was George Lucas.
Screenwriter John Milius had made a script that adapted the Joseph Conrad novel Heart of Darkness into a Vietnam film. There was only one problem: no one wanted to touch it. This was in the early 1970s and the feelings about Vietnam was strong to say the least. No major film company was going to get involved in a picture about a war that was so violently supported and protested.
So "Apocalypse Now" got shelved.
Instead, Coppola made the first two installments of "The Godfather" movies; which launched him into mega-stardom and made him a millionaire. Now with money in the bank, he started his own film company and decided that "Apocalypse Now" should be the first picture they make.
But he had no idea the problems he would face.
"Hearts of Darkness: A Flimmaker's Apocalypse" is a great movie about movies. What it does that so many documentaries fail to do is really show the ugly truth without bias. Coppola is neither glorified nor condemned though his actions could bring forth either reaction in the viewer.
As the days wore on and the film kept hitting milestones (100 days of shooting...200 days of shooting), Coppola's madness increased.
He became a man without care, a man whose life and art was being questioned and tested by nature.
Eleanor recorded several conversations between her and her husband—they prove to be revealing and haunting conversations.
Coppola starts the project as a cool, passionate man who wants to make a good movie. By the time he is finished, he has transformed into a driveling and rambling prophetic dictator of film. I was reminded of stories that I heard about "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" and that film's problems—Werner Herzog held a gun to one of his actors to keep them from leaving the set.
Though he doesn't hold a gun to their heads, you can see the affect that making "Apocalypse Now" had on Martin Sheen and company.
"Hearts of Darkness: A Flimmaker's Apocalypse" is behind the scenes, always watching. The little moments from the production that might have been forgotten are included here...not only is it fascinating in structure, but it's also incredible in its preservation.
To be fair, you probably won't care about the film unless you've seen "Apocalypse Now" and you shouldn't watch "Hearts of Darkness: A Flimmaker's Apocalypse" unless you have seen the Vietnam war movie.
This documentary proves that everything deserves to be documented and displayed...it's engrossing and captivating.
Score: 3 and a half out of 4 stars
Posted by Micah Jones