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*** 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?
I liked it. The realities of film making. The goal he was driven to.
Great documentary. Content as always wins again. Grainy as hell but
adds to feel and the spontaneity. Interesting facts & inside info on
making of film. His comments at re that in the future, filmmakers will
be able to make a film without all this paraphernalia....yeah alright!
Bring out those DVD cams! There are so many 'promo docos' now on the
making of films...this is a real filmmakers look into the art of and
the depth/trial and tribulations of making. The wild cards that get
thrown at u-the storm-the opinions that try to change a vision. People
& money what a combo.
OK so I'll watch it again because I liked it. You might too. No harm in checking it out. I found looking back at the technology used is so different from now. Maybe we will see the director & filmmaker approach creating his films in a different way.
The script/ideas are of course the hero. Without a great story u have eye candy. This is well worth the 'effort' to sit down and check it out and watch a great film maker & his wife making a true vision being burn't onto celluloid.
This is a riveting behind-the-scenes look at the making of Francis Ford Coppala's masterpiece, APOCALYPSE NOW. This documentary combines interviews with footage shot on location in the Philippines by Eleanor Coppola. This is certainly a must-see for anyone with the slightest interest in how Hollywood movies are made. This is a unique and privileged look inside one of the greatest films ever made.
Never thought the making of a movie would be so in line with the story it
portrayed. I am surprised the damn thing was ever made with as many
I thought they did a great job of explaining of how Orson Wells originally wanted to make the movie but it was eventually thrown out.
The movie is pretty much in tune with how the U.S. military works. As chaotic as it may seem from an outside point of view, when it all comes down to it, everything seems to work itself out.
While her husband made Apocalypse Now, Eleanor Coppola shot documentary
footage recording the shoot. Years later this is put together with recent
interviews and old footage to create this documentary recalling the
disasters and accidents that followed this marathon production.
A must for any Apocalypse fan or even any film fan, this documentary is fascinating and is a mould for other documentaries. The footage covers everything from the fact that the military kept taking their helicopters back, the storms destroying all the sets, the star being replaced, the star then having a breakdown and Brando turning up overweight and refusing to play a fat character and didn't even read the book.
This is fascinating stuff even if much of it is common knowledge for anyone who knows a little about the film itself. However it does have flaws. Mainly Eleanor Coppola! Her narration is dull and lifeless and she seems a little too distracted by issues away from the film it was the same with her book, she went off o discuss how hard to was to buy Sophia shoes etc. Outside of her it's actually very good most of the cast have come back for interviews and most of the information is really insightful and interesting.
My main complaint here is the issue of Redux. In the famous plantation scene we see Coppola shoot it but then tell everyone he's not happy with any aspect of it and that they should all forget it was ever made. Yet over 20 years later he's suddenly happy with it!? This documentary highlights many areas that Coppola wasn't happy with but yet he has stuck them into his redux version. I would like a redux documentary that explains why bits had suddenly become good were before they were so bad that everyone should just forget them?
Overall this is well worth a look. While many documentary `featurettes' on DVD's etc are thrown together with little thought or care, it's nice to see one that is really good and worth seeing as a film in it's own right.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Francis Ford Coppola is a distinguished director and a man of letters,
and I'd be interested to see if The Sympathizer, the Pulitzer Prize
winning book by Viet Thanh Nguyen, features prominently on his
bookshelf. The book, published in 2015, was a reposte to Apocalypse
Now, which in itself is an impressive movie in many respects.
Anyone who said that history is written by the victors has never watched Apocalypse Now or any other movie in the "Vietnam" genre from our great shores. Funny that no WWI movies pumped out from the USA are called "Germany" movies.
I like watching behind-the-scenes documentaries of movies, and Hearts of Darkness is one of the best. We empathize with Francis Ford Coppola on his enduring attempt to bring his vision to screen. He said at a press conference (featured at the beginning of the documentary) that "Apocalypse Now is Vietnam". That's kind of an insult to the millions of Vietnamese who suffered at the hands of the Americans in the War.
Released in 1991, "Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse"
chronicles the make of 1979's "Apocalypse Now," combining footage shot
by Eleanor Coppola during the shooting of the film with more recent
interviews with the cast & crew.
Documentaries or commentaries on how a particular film was made don't interest me because I'm not a filmmaker and only care about the final product. As a writer and former musician I'm familiar with the creative process and understand how some ideas fail to deliver the goods and must be thrown out, etc. As an example, I heard some demos of a couple of my favorite songs and they were lousy compared to the final product and almost ruined my view of those songs. This explains why I'm generally not interested in the harrowing details of how my favorite movies were made and the parts that were thrown out, etc. This documentary is an exception because (1.) "Apocalypse Now" is my all-time favorite movie (the original theatrical version, that is) and (2.) the documentary is just so well-done. In fact, it's fascinating from beginning to end.
"Hearts of Darkness" shows the monumental problems Coppola and crew encountered in making the movie: The sudden firing of their leading man (Harvey Keitel) after three weeks of shooting and replacing him with Martin Sheen; the delays in filming due to the Philippine Army taking back their rented helicopters to quell an uprising; a hurricane that ruins the sets; Sheen having a heart attack at only 36 years of age and the corresponding delay; overweight Brando arriving to the set totally unprepared and making $1 million a week with an unwritten, improvised ending; the amusing tiger incident; Francis venting in genuine uncertainty at various stages of the creative process, particularly the entire ending; etc.
The interviews with cast and crew are also very informative and entertaining, like Frederic Forrest's commentary on the tiger sequence and John Milius' insights on his original screenplay and his encounter with Francis during filming where the latter convinced him that it'd be "the first film to win the Nobel prize."
This documentary came out ten years before the "Redux" version of the film was released and, as such, it was the public's first glimpse of various scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor, like the French Plantation sequence and the typhoon-with-the-bunnies sequence. In my opinion, "Redux" is a failure and those scenes should've never been inserted into the movie as very little of the added footage works, but those sequences ARE interesting as deleted scenes or viewing them (in part) in the context of "Hearts of Darkness."
For some good laughs, be sure to check out the spoof of this documentary: "Hearts of Hot Shots Part Deux: A Filmmaker's Apology," which was released in 1993 and is available on Youtube in a couple parts.
The film runs 96 minutes.
Almost as powerfully haunting, profoundly disturbing & incredibly
harrowing an experience as the motion picture whose troubled production
it brings to life on the silver screen, Hearts of Darkness: A
Filmmaker's Apocalypse validates the claim that notable director
Francis Ford Coppola made about his 1979 feature, that his film wasn't
about Vietnam... it was Vietnam.
Deriving its name from Joseph Conrad's novella on which Apocalypse Now is based upon, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse covers the behind-the-scenes production work of Coppola's final masterpiece, chronicles the countless problems the project kept running into, and also captures the extremity its entire cast & crew were pushed to during its filming in the Philippines.
Co-directed by George Hickenlooper & Fax Bahr, who used the footage that was filmed & later provided to them by Coppola's wife, Eleanor, this documentary is highly gripping from the first frame to the last and while it's not an easy sit, it's too difficult to take your eyes off the screen because it all looks so surreal. Everyone knew on paper about the troubles Apocalypse Now was going through yet it's through the Hearts of Darkness that we get our first look at just how nightmarish everything actually was.
Brilliantly narrated by Eleanor Coppola, Hearts of Darkness opens with Francis Ford Coppola uttering the now iconic quotes about his harrowing experience of shooting his picture during its premiere at 1979 Cannes Film Festival, which is then followed by the depiction of each n every encountered problem, starting with the replacement of the lead actor within days into principal photography and concluding with Coppola arriving at the feature's premiere, where it is quite evident that he's not the same person anymore.
It's actually upsetting to see the visionary filmmaker who had two of the greatest films ever made to his name reduced to a person who was contemplating suicide. Apocalypse Now hit Coppola the hardest for it planted the seed of self-doubt in his mind, drove him to the point of insanity, and with all the costly sets getting destroyed due to bad weather, actor's health issues, the continuously inflating budget & other things, it's no surprise that it eventually took such a toll on him that he still hasn't fully recovered from it.
It's a soul-crushing moment when a clear ambition is marred by aggravating circumstances which is what happened in that film's case as Coppola himself got the first-hand experience of what he intended to capture with his picture; a descent into primal madness. But what eventually came out from the abyss is a cinema that has horror written all over it and while it can be disputed, it's difficult to imagine that Apocalypse Now would've been the same film if everything that did go wrong during its production hadn't actually gone wrong.
Hearts of Darkness is methodically paced from start to finish and there's a very natural flow to how all the events unfold on the screen. Coppola's weight fluctuations, Martin Sheen's drunk acting, his heart attack, weather playing spoilsport, government not fully cooperating, production running over budget & over schedule, Coppola having no proper ending in sight, Marlon Brando bringing an all new sets of problems, all this & other interviews are infused into this documentary in a manner that makes it an enlightening, entertaining & informative experience.
On an overall scale, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse is regarded by many as the finest documentary ever made and of all the documentaries that I've seen so far, it's the best. It has the same vibe of the deranged classic whose highly frustrating production it chronicles, is tightly structured & cleverly paced throughout its runtime which makes its content all the more engaging & intriguing, and is absolutely unflinching in shedding light on the life-changing impact it had on several members of its cast n crew, most notably Francis Ford Coppola. A must supplement for everyone who's seen Apocalypse Now, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse comes strongly recommended.
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