|By Mira Harber,
Why re-release Apocalypse Now after 22 years?
What could be so different then and now?
The original film is based on the novel
Heart of Darkness by Joesph Conrad. It tells of a soldier (a young Martin
Sheen) sent on a secret mission to “terminate... with extreme prejudice”
one Colonel Kurtz.
Most of the story deals with the long voyage upstream
into enemy territory looking for the the almost mythological Kurtz. What
could have happened to change this exemplary military man into the violent,
mad monster that he appears to have become? Why has he gone mad?
Has he gone mad?
Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) leads a small
band of soldiers - an innocent named Clean (Larry Fishburne at 17), a California
surfer, and a frustrated Chef (Frederic Forrest) - all piloted by
the taciturn Chief (Albert Hall), as they make their way into treacherous
Viet Cong territory.
There are many memorable scenes in the movie.
The most well remembered ones feature the Playboy Playmates ‘entertaining’
the troops, the long, monotonous river journey, Kurtz’s shadowy, terrifying
compound - the first horrifying moment we realize that it is Kurtz (Brando)
speaking from the dark shadows. The single most famous scene in the movie
features Robert Duvall as the lunatic Lt.Kilgore who blasts music from
Wagner’s “The Ride of the Valkyrie” as his soldiers attack and destroy
a village. Who can forget him saying “I love the smell of naplam in the
morning...it smells like victory”?
Redux is different from the original movie
in several ways. It is 49 minutes longer than the original (which makes
it 127 minutes long). It has been re-edited, and is on new technicolor
dye transfer prints - which makes the colors intense and rich, with brighter
brights and blacker blacks.
A few scenes have been added (not always
successfully) to Redux. One of the longest additions involves a visit to
a French plantation that explains the French history in Vietnam (way, way
too long, and difficult to understand - the sound editing was poor in that
segment of the film). There is additional Playmate material too which doesn’t
really work either.
The additions which do work are so well
done, we’re barely aware of them - more of the drug addled photo-journalist
(Dennis Hopper), more of Brando discussing the war, even more time on the
river. It captures so well the boredom, the violence and fear, alleviated
in part by drugs, that are all part of the journey towards Kurtz.
When Apocalypse Now was first released,
we were scandalized by Marlon Brando - at how he looked, and at how much
he was paid (reportedly $1 million) for his role. Whatever it was, it was
He is absolutely mesmerizing. When he reads from T.S.Eliot’s
“The Hollow Man” and tells of a horrific incident where the arms of innoculated
children are hacked off by the brutal Viet Cong “men who are moral and
at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to
kill without feeling...without judgement”. This is too horrible for us
to even imagine - Kurtz had to live through this kind of horror on a daily
basis. It helps to explain how he became the way he did - as we see how
his mind worked and his thoughts change, we too become mesmerized, like
Willard. He comes to understand how thoroughly Kurtz has inhabited the
primitive instincts that have made the Viet Cong the efficient and merciless
killers that they are. When Kurtz repears “the horror, the horror’ we understand
only too well what he meant.
Run to the the theater and see Apocalypse
Now Redux, on the big screen. As the helicopters race overhead towards
their targets, as Kurtz rises from the shadows -the sights and sounds of
war- all of these images are indelibly imprinted on our consciousness -
don’t miss it.