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Francis Ford Coppola was fond of saying 'Apocalypse Now' was "not about the Vietnam War; it was the Vietnam War", and this long overdue chronicle of the film's troubled production certainly proves his point. Using behind-the-scenes 16mm footage shot by Coppola's wife, Eleanor, and borrowing several passages from her published diaries, the documentary traces how what began as a modest wartime action movie (with nods to Joseph Conrad) would emerge, after several years, several tens of millions of dollars, and more than one physical and mental breakdown, as a brilliant, bloated, visionary epic. The production itself was often a living illustration of Murphy's Law: what could go wrong did go wrong, including a civil war, a devastating typhoon, a near-fatal heart attack suffered by actor Martin Sheen, and the appearance on the set of an unprepared, overweight Marlon Brando to play the emaciated Colonel Kurtz. Among the many revealing moments is Martin Sheen's drunken breakdown on camera (included in Coppola's finished film), and snippets of the fascinating, discreet audiotapes showing the director near the end of his wits. Invaluable hindsight is provided by cast and crew, including Coppola himself, who was never quite able to recover professionally from the experience.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Although "Apocalypse Now" is definitely one of my top 10 movies, after
viewing this insightful, hilarious, amazing, and thoughtful documentary
several years ago, I became even more appreciative of the movie.
Considering the characters Coppola had to deal with, it is truly amazing this film was ever completed. Just when you think Sam Bottoms is exaggerating the character of the animal trainer, you discover that the trainer's mouth really is on the side of his face as he discusses putting an animal down when it starts nibbling on your knees. This man has been nibbled on from head to toe.
This is only one of the many insights the viewer will find in this excellent documentary.
The greatest news of all, however, is that the DVD will be available in a couple of weeks!! You don't want to miss it this time around!
This documentary provides a much deeper look inside Apocalypse now than anything else could. It contains deleted scenes from the film, a look inside the mind and character of Coppola, and the many, many, many problems that were encountered. While recommended for those familiar with Apocalypse Now, it is a great film to watch even if you are not familiar with the original film.
This is probably the best documentary you'll ever see about the process
"Hearts of Darkness" documents the disastrous and painful filming of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. Through interviews with cast and crew members and footage from the actual filming, you get a first-row view of the catastrophes that plagues the production - Marlon Brando's noncooperation, Charlie Sheen's heart attack and alcohol-fueled breakdown, the typhoon that destroyed half the set and equimpent, and more.
But more than that you get insight into Francis Ford Coppola's own psyche, and the painstaking process he went through with his last great film, and one he still considers a failure. It's the portrait of a man who allowed himself to become a dictator and a god, and then crashed to complete depression and despair - more than once.
"Hearts of Darkness" is essential for true film lovers, because it provides real insights into the process and the art of creating a film, and what it meant to be a director in the age of the auteur, when directors were given free rein with their films - and not always for the best.
Never before has a documentary so closely been able to capture the
spontaneity, the ambition, the determination needed to make a movie. It
is a well-known fact that Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola's epic
tale of the chaos and confusion surrounding America's involvement in
the Vietnam War, was at first glance a financial and monumental
disaster. It took almost twice as long to shoot as expected, went way
over budget and Coppola had numerous problems with actors and in
writing the script. Yet, 30 years later, we look at this film and it is
quite simply perfect. How could this be and what is it that drove
Coppola to make this movie despite all outside forces against him?
These questions are what is at the center of this fascinating
documentary shot by Coppola's own wife, Eleanor. Shot without her
husband's awareness, we get the full and unedited explanation of why
things went so bad. Bad luck, bad weather and just plain bad results
led to the debacle Coppola found himself in; driving so close as to
contemplate suicide. In-depth interviews with many of the cast and crew
reveal even more. But at the heart of this documentary, the film
Apocalypse Now, and the career of Francis Ford Coppola, is a desire.
He mentions it several times; he always had the desire and ambition to go as far as he could, to make a great movie and not just make money. He put up all the money he had to make this one, a personal journey and one that very well may be the highlight of his career. Looking at movies today, I realize that this is what makes Coppola such a great filmmaker and auteur. He has that ambition and desire to go way above and beyond what most other directors do. No movie studio would even dare make another Apocalypse Now today because it is too incredible for their own good. One of the very last great filmmakers of all time, watching this documentary is an account of a personal journey of Coppola into the real heart of darkness: fear and anxiety that he would make a forgettable and deplorable movie. Thank God he did not.
A tremendous look at the struggles that everyone went through (including Eleanor Coppola) to finally create Apocalypse Now. Perhaps the overwhelming impression that this film made on me was that I would never, ever want to have to work with Marlon Brando. In a cast and crew of hundreds of people working, suffering, and creating together, he stands out as someone who didn't care about the process, merely concerned with getting paid. Ugh. Of course, this does not detract from the quality of the documentary, which gives amazing insight into the filmmaking process, both as a broad concept and as relating to Apocalypse Now. Another idea explored is "what is an artist?" This is a film that no film aficionado should miss.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Apocalypse Now, from director Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, The Conversation, Bram Stoker's Dracula), is considered one of the greatest war films of all time, it features in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, as does this documentary about the making of the film, which was rated well by critics. Told mostly from the point of view of Coppola's wife Eleanor, with interviews from Coppola himself (including without his knowledge) and the cast and crew, this film chronicles the ups and downs, high and lows and generally the sensational events during the making of Apocalypse Now, based loosely on the book Heart of Darkness. It shows the director's frustration with the various occurrences on and off set, problems during scriptwriting and filming, the firing of Harvey Keitel and replacing him with Martin Sheen, Sheen drunk on set, injuring himself and having a heart attack, trying to secure the casting of Marlon Brando or any big name in the part of Kurtz, funding and distribution for the film, and the tabloids capturing all this. With contributions from Sam Bottoms, Gia Coppola, Roman Coppola, Sofia Coppola, Robert Duvall, Laurence Fishburne, Frederic Forrest, Albert Hall, Dennis Hopper, George Lucas and Martin Sheen. It is interesting to see what really goes behind the scenes during all the aspects of making a film, before and during the production, and it goes to show that filmmaking really is not an easy process, a great documentary. Very good!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've never seen behind-the-scenes documentary filmmaking quite like this, except for something like Werner Herzog's Burden of Dreams, where a nightmarish series of events kept occurring, including a massive monsoon, military unease(the Filipino government for which he worked out a partnership, kept taking helicopters from him during key moments in his movie!), constant re-writes(Coppola was constantly "revamping" John Milius' script), casting issues(the lead had to be changed even though Harvel Keitel's name was printed on the poster advertising the movie!), cast and crew succumbing to numerous crises both physical(Martin Sheen has a heart attack, his role is so incredibly demanding!)and psychological(director Francis Ford Coppola nearly had a nervous breakdown and claims to almost go mad while going through the 200 day process of bringing APOCALYPSE NOW to the screen)and dealing with budgetary problems(Coppola had to put up his own money and house as collateral)as the movie's delay made the media rounds with much scrutiny(one headline read:APOCALYPSE WHEN?). Coppola's wife documented footage, pieced with interviews with the likes of Martin Sheen and Lawrence Fishburne(who was 14 or so when he starred in the movie). Coppola had audio interviews with his wife that she secretly kept for the documentary to elaborate the toll for which the movie was taking on her husband. The heart attack of Sheen really set back Coppola as did Marlon Brando's eccentricities(the way he needed constant discussion with Coppola of the character and script). The most eye-opening moments include the late Dennis Hopper, obviously in a bad state with drugs(his bouts with Coppola are fascinating as it pertains to asking Hopper to commit to a scene with Brando). This film truly shows a man suffering for his art, doing whatever it takes to get it made, even if there were plenty of times where he was more than a bit critical of the work that was being made. The scene where Coppola wants Sheen to reach down to the very lower depths to present a pain his character is going through, the darkness overtaking him and being spilled forth, is startling. Coppola truly gave all that he had for this film and it is presented for us--all the afflictions, wear and tear, that one is burdened with during the movie-making process is shown, honest and open for us to experience.
With "Apocalypse Now", Francis Ford Coppola sought to expose
colonialism. But as his wife Eleanor's documentary shows, he ended up
creating it in the process of filming his movie. "Hearts of Darkness: A
Filmmaker's Apocalypse" mostly looks at the problems that plagued the
film's production and nearly bankrupted Coppola*. But it also shows how
he went to a third world country, brought western technology, and made
the people there work for him. The madness depicted in the movie is
nothing compared to the events on the set.
All in all, it's an amazing insight into one of the greatest movies ever made. Still, you should see the movie before the documentary, just so that the story behind it doesn't bias you. Perfect.
*Apparently, as a result of his near bankruptcy, Coppola smashed four of his five Oscars and briefly separated from his wife.
This is a fascinating documentary of all the legendary problems that
occurred during the filming of "Apocalypse Now." It is a must-see for
all those who love films, as it documents the vicissitudes of a major
As I wrote in my review of "Godfather III", I believe that Francis Ford Coppola is the modern-day incarnate of Orson Welles. Welles would sell off his personal assets and go into the red just to complete his film, just like Coppola. Welles' most famous account was during the filming of "Othello," which was filmed over 4 years! Welles would frequently run out of money, would act in a film (most notably "The Third Man") and use the proceeds to continue filming "Othello." He would also try to obtain financing through other sources. The amazing thing is that despite the sporadic filming of "Othello," it won the Palme D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1952 and is still a great film.
Like Welles, Coppola sold off his assets to complete "Apocalypse Now" and endured such legendary problems as Brando's obesity, Sheen's heart attack, a typhoon and an ever-changing script, to name a few. The fact that he completed the film is in itself a feat, but he made a classic film that will endure for years. I admit that this an arty, surreal depiction of Vietnam as opposed to other realistic films ("We Were Soldiers" for one) that probably are better examples of that war. However, the images in "Apocalypse Now" (i.e. Col. Kilgore, Dennis Hopper's photo-journalist, et al.) are exemplary.
Maybe it's not so much of a coincidence that Coppola based "Apoclypse Now" on "Heart of Darkness"--which was the chosen piece for Orson Welles' first film.
I had to bring up the Marlon Brando debacle: he didn't read the book on which the script was based like he was supposed to, he showed up grossly out-of-shape, he shut down production to find his character and didn't know his lines. In addition to that, he refused to be malleable during the shooting process, threatening not to show up but yet keeping his 1 million dollar bonus. My only question is: where can I find a job like this?
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