Coppola x Han Solo x Vets

Last blog post! Wow.

I really dig this movie and have for a really long time. My dad’s a high school teacher and actually does a unit with his class (grade 10-11 I think) about Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now. I’ve watched this movie a lot. Many, many times. And every times I re-watch it I find something new from ti.

One thing that I was thinking a lot about this time around was the way that the film explores American culture. I usually think about this film in the way it deals with abstract, high-levels ideas (absurdity, violence, etc), but I really find the exploration of American culture to be insightful.

There’s this little anecdote about the making of the film (I’m not sure how true it is) that I’d like to talk about here. It takes place during Willard’s meeting with the high-ranking Army officials, a scene which bears some parallels to the beginning of Marlow’s story in Heart of Darkness – when he’s in Europe and such. During this scene Harrison Ford’s character comes in and drops some files. Apparently, during the filming of Apocalypse Now when Ford came in and dropped the files, Coppola yelled cut, and asked Ford to do the scene over, because he had dropped the files. Ford explained to him that this was his intention though – he wanted to show the disorganized nature of the American war effort: the incompetence, the disorientation, the lack of information/muddling that the American’s had about Vietnam as a territory (jungle warfare) and political environment(see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_Assistance_Command,_Vietnam_%E2%80%93_Studies_and_Observations_Group).

We might also think about the way that the film starts with Willard off-duty (drunk and most likely sufering from PTSD) as a commentary on the post-war lives of Vietnam vets. We don’t really get the full force of this in Canada, but in the states, Vietnam vets represent a huge chunk of the homeless population, and many came back deeply scarred. The movie starts with “The End,” but is this really the end? Of course not. These people go home afterwards (if they’re “lucky”), they go back to American society.  We KNOW this isn’t the end, there’s more to this story than just war.

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