Apocalypse Now

Introduction

Apocalypse Now is a 1979 American epic war film directed, produced, and co-written by Francis Ford Coppola. It stars Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Frederic Forrest, Albert Hall, Sam Bottoms, Laurence Fishburne, and Dennis Hopper. The screenplay, co-written by Coppola and John Milius (who received an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay) and featuring narration written by Michael Herr, is an updating of Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness. The setting was changed from late nineteenth-century Congo to the Vietnam War ca. 1969–70, the years in which Green Beret Colonel Robert Rheault, commander of the 5th Special Forces Group, was indicted for murder and President Richard Nixon authorized the secret Cambodian Campaign. Coppola said that Rheault was an inspiration for the character of Colonel Kurtz.[4][5] The voice-over narration of Willard was written by war correspondent Herr, whose 1977 Vietnam memoir Dispatches brought him to the attention of Coppola.[6] A major influence on the film was Werner Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972), which also features a river journey and an insane soldier.[7] The film revolves around a river journey from South Vietnam into Cambodia undertaken by Captain Benjamin L. Willard (a character based on Conrad's Marlow and played by Sheen), who is on a secret mission to assassinate Colonel Kurtz, a renegade Army officer accused of murder who is presumed insane.

The film has been noted for the problems encountered while making it, chronicled in the documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991). These problems included Brando arriving on the set overweight and completely unprepared, expensive sets being destroyed by severe weather, and Sheen having a breakdown and suffering a near-fatal heart attack while on location. Problems continued after production as the release was postponed several times while Coppola edited thousands of feet of film.

Apocalypse Now was honored with the Palme d'Or at Cannes Film Festival, nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, and the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama. Initial reviews were mixed; while Vittorio Storaro's cinematography was widely acclaimed, several critics found Coppola's handling of the story's major themes to be anticlimactic and intellectually disappointing. Reevaluated in subsequent years, Apocalypse Now is today considered to be one of the greatest films ever made. It ranked No. 14 in Sight & Sound's greatest films poll in 2012.[8] In 2000, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant".[9]


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