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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.
*** 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!
A likely classic since it's based on one of the best films ever. Films like these sometimes don't always stand the test of time. But this one def does. This film seems to get better with age. Especially when taking into account the massive film he was shooting. Watching Coppola stew in frustration as the Philippine army abandons him during the filming of complicated sequences is revealing and fascinating. Very few who make their living in cinema would open themselves up to such ruthless dissection. But just as the making of the movie was compellingly unique, so was Coppola's defined approach, which is luckily taped unrelentingly in personal recordings. Make sure to watch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It can not be touched. A documentary about the making of a film the
actually elevates the film. I was drained and to an extent bored my
Apocalypse Now. Long, overwrought, pretentious, if Vietnam was like
this no one would have left, everyone would have been sound asleep. I
mean that negatively because I don't think Francis knew diddly about
war movies, or Vietnam. (I do wonder about the screenplay he wrote for
Patton, which was brilliant.) He had talent, but ended up with more of
a cartoon than cinema.
Now for Hearts of Darkness. Seems that the wife had incredible talent in picking and choosing.
She not only bought the film making process alive she bought the film to life. I could follow the plot and appreciate some to the choices that Francis was confronted with, he had a beast and he had to tame it.
By seeing what was rejected, I could appreciate what was left in.
1)Some the story boards with lines about soldiers who felt like gods, suddenly made I love the smell of napalm in the morning seem subtle and understated.
2)Clearly the difficulties with Martin Sheen's heart attack, and the walking disasters that were Dennis Hopper and Marlon Brando.
I mean I suddenly found myself wanting to see it again, not because of a yearning to see a jumbled mess about the jumbled mess of Vietnam, but because if you want to see an unquenchable thirst to tell a tale, and how fine a balance that is...and the interesting tale about the tale, this is unmatchable. It's truly like being there.
I rented this title when it first came out on VHS, and naturally loved it. I can only guess that it is Francis Coppola's massive Hollywood influence and ego that is preventing the film's release on DVD. Like most collectors with any respect for great films, I own the DVD of Apocalypse Now (Redux, in my case,) and would very much love to complement it with this making-of masterpiece. Is Coppola himself keeping this unflattering documentary out of the hands of DVD devotees? I certainly want to own this great film, but the ridiculous thought of purchasing a VHS title makes me glance at the calendar to be sure that it is in fact the year 2005. As I remember it from so many years ago, Hearts of Darkness is a fantastic documentary that deserves to be available to DVD viewers.
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 ***
"We were in the jungle, there were too many of us, we had access to too
much money, too much equipment, and little by little we went insane." -
Francis Ford Coppola.
"I tell you from the bottom of my heart that I am making a bad film. We are all lost. I have no idea where to go with this." - Francis Ford Coppola.
This is an interesting documentary. Some points...
1. Coppola's rant on pretence is priceless. He says that all artists dream of saying something great, deep and meaningful. At the same time, all great artists are aware that depth must be invisible. If it isn't, you run the risk of being called pretentious. "There's nothing worse than a bad movie that thinks it's important," Coppola says. Here he acknowledges the flaw of "Apocalpyse Now", which, despite its cinematic bravura, genuinely said less than it appeared to.
2. Coppola spends weeks fretting over how to end his film. He has no idea what to do or what he wants to say. He paces about his giant sets, acutely aware of what not to do (he doesn't want a clichéd ending, he doesn't want a giant gun fight), but incapable of finding something of substance to say. He's essentially gone down the river and doesn't know why.
3. Faced with no ending, Coppola lets Marlon Brando improvise for 3 full weeks. Brando makes up all his dialogue, the other actors bouncing off of him. Together Brando and Coppola shoot hundreds of hours of improv, Coppola still not sure what he's doing. Only months later, in the editing rooms, does he sculpt some plausible ending together out of bits of footage. The great rip off of "Apocalpyse Now" is that it ends on a note ambiguous enough to be taken as profound and low key enough to not be accused of pandering to action junkies.
4. While Coppola frets about his ending, Marlon Brando is just in it for the money. Brando simply doesn't care. He behaves like a professional, but one sees that he has simply shut his mind off and entered his own little personal space. There's something funny about Brando improvising whatever comes to his head, trying to sound profound and then saying, "I can't think of anything else to say" or "I have a bug in my mouth."
5. Coppola is shown to be a broken man in this documentary. The sheer passion and love he has for his film is staggering. He is trying so hard, putting every once of energy, of his brain, of his soul, into this picture, and comes up against nothing but hurdles and problems.
6. In one great scene Coppola contemplates suicide, trying to figure out a way to get out of the picture whilst still maintaining his artistic credibility. Poor guy.
7. The documentary illustrates the true merit of "Apocalypse Now". It shows us a man who demands control, but is nevertheless at the mercy of chance and accidents. It shows us a man who believes in insight, but has none. Ultimately, this documentary shows that "Apocalypse Now" is less about Vietnam, man or combat, but more about the sheer obsessiveness of art and the sheer madness of the artist. Being an artist requires one to be almost insane. You have to be willing to venture into the jungle in order to pluck something of beauty, of interest of intellect, from the bushes. Coppola went into the jungle and came out with something beautiful, interesting and (this is what kills him) stupid. In this respect "Apocalpyse Now" neatly mirrors "Fitzcarraldo" and "Mosquito Coast", two other films about crazy white men who seemingly conquer the jungle in the name of art, but actually accomplish nothing at all. The merit of these films is the "artistic risk" and the act of "surviving horror" rather than the actual final product.
8/10 - Compare this doc with the behind the scenes documentary of James Cameron's "The Abyss". "The Abyss" is an equally pretentious and silly film, but look how calmly director James Cameron handles his mammoth production. The guy spends 3/4 of his day underwater or depressurizing himself in a giant tank, and yet rarely looses his cool. A decade later, with "Titanic", he would subject himself to another mad, mammoth production. Coppola's "meltdown" thus has less to do with the sheer scope of his picture or his need to marshal large amounts of hardware, but his problems wrestling which things on a more thematic, intellectual level.
"Hearts of Darkness" is a documentary chronicling the making of
"Apocalypse Now". The title is a variation on the novel "Heart of
Deakness" by Joseph Conrad--a book that was the basis for much of the
This documentary gives extraordinary insight into the filming of "Apocalypse Now" because instead of making the documentary way after the fact like most 'making of' films, Coppola's wife was filming behind the scenes throughout the film shoot. It's surprising, then, that it took so long for this documentary to come to light. I think it is clearly a testament to the cult-like adoration of "Apocalypse Now" by some devoted fans.
Some highlight of the film include: Laurence Fishburne's comments about 'how fun the war must have been'. These were incredibly stupid and naive, but you do need to remember that he was only 14--a little kid playing a man. So, to him it might have seemed that way when he made the film.
Dennis Hopper was clearly 'hopped up' during the filming. His use of drugs is no bit surprise and here you get to see him in all his flaky splendor.
Watching the documentary, it's amazing that the finished film was any good. Marlon Brando, despite receiving a MASSIVE salary to participate, wasn't the least bit prepared. Much of what they filmed with him was gibberish and it was all pieced together months later to try to make a coherent ending.
You really cannot watch this documentary without first watching movie.
My feeling about all this is that the film, though it has some interesting moments, is NOT a must-see film unless you absolutely adore the film. Otherwise, you'll probably be a bit bored by it after a while--which I was.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Hearts Of Darkness glosses over one of the more important aspects of
the film's creation, the hiring and firing of the first actor, Harvey
Keitel, to portray Lt. Willard. We are simply told it was not working,
and cut to Francis's hiring of Martin Sheen. But, we never see any of
the footage shot with Keitel, we never learn if he was simply too
different from Francis's vision of Willard to work, or was he simply
doing a poor job, a malcontent, or clashing too frequently with
Francis. For a so-called documentary to leave such wide open says much
of the aims of the documentarian, in this case Eleanor. Also left
open-ended is a much talked about aspect of the filming that the
documentary does not cover, and that is Francis's infidelity on the
set, and how that contributed to the distance between the couple. How
this affected Eleanor's documentary, much less Apocalypse Now, is
certainly ripe for discussion. This is the rare instance where such is
not mere gossip for gossip's sake, but pertinent information about the
director's state of mind in the improvisatory aspects of the film. Was
his film more gloomy because of the infidelity's consequences? Hearts
Of Darkness does a great disservice to its viewers by totally avoiding
such questions, even as it claims a rare intimacy, due to Eleanor's
claim to have surreptitiously recorded conversations without Francis's
Overall, the DVD package is barely worth an investment, especially if a Coppola fan, but once again the studio that put out the DVD could have offered so much more for so little an investment. Hearts Of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse is a good and worthwhile 'Making Of' feature for a DVD release, but, as a stand alone documentary, it is rather lacking. Thus, with two making of documentaries, and no real feature, the package is saved by the aforementioned pluses alone. Better than nothing, but most viewers will wind up asking, 'Well, that's it?'
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