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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.
*** 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?'
You make few major choices in life... things so basic they transcend
the ordinary obsessions about who we are and how we live. The basic
choices have to do with how we approach such issues, how we structure
the parts of the worlds we live in.
We have power over that, the world. You choose your world. Art is your best friend in this, both the potential art of yourself and certainly the art you choose to digest from others. And of these, both of these, cinema can have a place. For most of us, it must have a place. Indeed, for most of us, the grandest decisions we make about the world and ourselves are made without our knowledge through being seduced by what comes our way through movies.
But we do have a choice about this. Film has two main hemispheres in this regard and "Apocalypse" is a visit to the jungles of one.
What we have in Coppola is the tradition that the world revolves around people. People have lives, those lives move and in moving generate an electricity that powers the forces that surround us. More, the smell of us flavors those forces. Everything we know is the simple aggregation of these forces into grand rivers whose currents we can fight or surf. In cinema, this tradition is rooted in Italian artistic traditions, hence is represented by Italian Americans in Hollywood: Coppola, Scorsese and those that follow in their streams like Lucas. ("Star Wars" is simply "Godfather" with different sets.)
It can create powerful cinema, should you choose to relinquish your soul to it. That's because one strength of film is the ability to inflate a single actor with qualities that clarify this mechanism, that the world bends to humans, and human "motivations." Copolla's voyage, Kurtz's world, Brando's approach are what makes "Apocalypse" a sort of touchstone for this philosophy the absolute commitment to "discovery" with the tools of examining self.
The other hemisphere of film cosmology is noir, the notion that the viewer and filmmaker collectively spin a world with dynamics apart from the mere humans therein. These incidentally get toyed with. The camera examines the world, not the beings though naturally the drama of those beings is always the focus. Noir is uniquely cinematic and equally powerful.
"Apocalypse" is a war movie from the one hemisphere where Kubrick and Malick chose the other. "Apocalypse" is a "Heart of Darkness" personal voyage by a filmmaker who folds his life into the enterprise, while "Fitzcarraldo" of about the same time is the complement. If it comes to choices as it always must I choose Herzog, Malick, Kubruck and the others.
Now we have a better option. This documentary is a view from one hemisphere about a man, events and a film in the other. Coppola's wife, his other half, gives us this view of a man buffeted by accident, a man who believes in insight and control but has neither for his film about struggles with the same. One world folded into the other.
Apart from being a fascinating story, this documentary gives us exactly what we need, the balance of looking from one world into the evil snappings of the other. If you need a character, the wife is the fascinating one here. All the others kick at the world as if they can sculpt it. Look at her closely and appreciate the other half that actually bears children, in her a thin, patient mage.
And now we have two of the skinny kids she has suckled (and we see here) as full filmmakers in their own rights. And we are presented with choices all over again. I choose Roman.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
"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.
I'm still trying to understand what "making of" means. As a film
student I was expecting to grasp useful informations that could explain
to me why "Apocalypse Now" took so much time to be produced, why
Coppola tried to kill himself and so on. Unfortunately I can say it's
one of the most tedious making of I've ever watched, because all the
horror, the problems, the dreadful filming diary don't explain
anything, in the end I feel like the irresponsibility or Coppola own's
money took over so that many production problems would come up due to
Maybe I'm being harsh, but for me the documentary was pointless to watch, there are very few things you can take into account, I turned off my TV and thought Coppola speaks too much and says nothing on Hearts of Darkness, he's not being clear but redundant all the time.
If you are like me and want something more solid, go for "Lost in La Mancha" that tell us Terry Gilliam's nightmare, It's much better, interesting and rather sad.
After reading some reviews on Hearts of Darkness I was looking forward
to seeing total chaos unfolding behind the scenes of the production of
apocalypse now. I was somewhat disappointed to find out that the
supposed chaos that went on during the filming of apocalypse now was
greatly overstated. Its true that the film faced many setbacks and some
really bad luck but it wasn't as gripping a struggle as I was hoping
We get to see a lot of scenes with Coppola whining about things like the Filipino army taking the helicopters away from the production to fight a war, how he's disappointed in martin sheen for having a heart attack and being worried about the film going over budget, but overall the problems they faced didn't give me the feeling that the film was all that out of control. Coppola's raving about how he's going insane in the jungle just comes across as pretentious.
Hearing all the hype about this movie you'd think that the crew were living in shacks and eating bugs but in reality they were all living in expensive hotels and being pampered with catered food like any other big budget Hollywood production.
If you want to see a documentary about the making of a film that really has you scared for the sanity of the cast and crew I suggest watching either Empire of Dreams: the making of the star wars trilogy. (only for the making of star wars though, the rest of it is completely self serving) or Apocalypse soon: the making of citizen toxie. These documentaries do a much better job portraying the desperation a filmmaker can go through trying to complete their vision.
Even though i seem to be bashing the movie I would still recommend it. If you're a fan of Apocalypse Now you will definitely enjoy seeing what was going on behind the scenes.
When one sees Coppola saying what a disastrous movie he is making, or
sitting on the set and telling the actors (with absolute belief) that the
french plantation scene is not at all what he imagined and that it would
never never never find its way into the finished film...
One wonders at how MONEY changes a man's values. The lesson here is that you do not tamper with a thing after you've put it aside. EVER. Get on with the rest of your life Francis and leave your masterpieces alone. You only succeed in devaluating them for posterity.
The documentary film makers should go back and add two or three minutes on how, after a lackluster decade as a has-been film maker in the 90's, Coppola needed major studio backing for his up-coming MEGALOPOLIS, and so enthusiastically went back to pee on Apocalypse Now to curry favor.
I know that Apocalypse Now! has this great reputation and all--even though I
don't remember it being so great--but after viewing this documentary I was
left thinking of that famous anecdote from Marathon Man. Method actor Dustin
Hoffman went without sleep for days to prepare himself for being tortured by
Olivier's character--and when he told this to Olivier, the famous
Shakespearean actor is reported to have replied: "Why not try acting? Its
I do not think the end results of Apocalypse Now justifies the insane expenses and misery that apparently went into the making of it.
If anything, this film shows the crazy extravagances filmmakers will go to in order to make "art," and in this case the end certainly does not justify the means.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Every director should have a vision, but so should every dictator. Francis Ford Coppola must have worshiped Stalin at some point because his directing style in Apocalypse Now seems to indicate a predilection for ruling with an iron fist. Personally I've never thought much of Apocalypse Now, but respect it in that many good points and observations of human nature are made. Kurtz, being shown and introduced as almost god-like. Having complete control over his men who speak of him as if he was the second coming of Christ. Willard is somewhat of a curiosity. He mulls on about how he admires Kurtz and......this is so hard. I am completely indifferent to this movie. Most of the performances are unbelievable in that the actors always seem like they're acting. One only has to watch Dennis Hopper to realize that. " I...I..I wish I had the words man..", Hopper says of describing Kurtz, but what he really means is " Hey man...I cant think of anymore dialogue man". Marlon Brando so full of himself and self aware of the clout and power he has in the entertainment business that he just rambles on for days while Coppela is hoping enough of the footage will be usable or make enough sense that it can be used in the movie. Francis pushes all his actors like he is the plantation owner and they are the slaves. After seeing Hearts of Darkness I lost even more respect for this film. The continuing battles of Coppela's obsession with making his epic, Brando trying to prove that big stars have the power to do anything they want, and a bunch of actors that don't know what they are doing. Sure the film is nicely shot, but it couldn't be taken seriously. Apocalypse Now is a very funny movie, and perhaps that was all intended to end when Willard killed the woman on the boat showing that he is completely obsessed with getting up river to Kurtz, but then the laughs continue. Let us not forget Kilgore, the name alone is hilarious. Not a slight on Duvall but Kilgore comes across as more of a cartoon character than a real person. Perhaps intended, but it took me right out of the movie. Improvisational movie making is not my cup of tea. The real madman here is Coppola; he spent an unbelievable amount of time and money on a complete mess, and only through generous editing found some meaning in it. The original version of Apocalypse Now was somewhere around six hours....one can only wonder.
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