Francis Ford Coppola initially directed this film with strong anti-war themes as the focal point. This film is very graphic in the portrayal of anti-war imagery and symbolism. However, there seems to be a sway in modern thinking as many people believe that Apocalypse Now glorifies war. This is down to the sensibility of the spectator. I personally saw this film as an anti-war film as it negatively displayed the graphic horror of war. This film like other films provides an access to certain experiences which would not be possible in normal circumstances. This film provides a good indication of the effects of war on the average person.

The clip starts with a call to arms for the invading American soldiers. We get a short view of their modern arsenals of weapons. A bugle instrument is used to signal the start of the attack. This refers to the American attacks on the Native Americans. This, in my opinion, is a good use of symbolism as it compares the Vietnam War with the slaughter of the native settlers of America. Next we see the advancing American helicopters. This is contrasted with shots of a peaceful Vietnamese village. This gives the spectator a sense of the violence about to take place. The musical score, Wagner’s symphony, provides a sense of fear but also depicts a link to Nazi Germany. I feel that this is an almost sarcastic indication of American National Socialism, which would greatly compare to the ideals of the Nazis. Coppola shows to great effect that this is a war of two contrasting ideologies. The brutality of war is greatly depicted in this film. Firstly, the obsolete equipment used by the Vietnamese shows the injustice of war. Also the painful groan of the injured soldier greatly impacts the violence and horror of war. I feel that this is a very effective anti-war protest.

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13 thoughts on “Apocalypse Now…at a glance

  1. Different people think differently. Some say Apocalypse Now glorify it only because some characters look good while other says it’s anti-war because of the extreme violence of war. ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’.

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  2. Kilgore says ” savages!”, followed by him ordering killing of the escaping civilians. War blurs the lines of combatant and civilian, victor and victim as it sweeps everyone up in it’s path.

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  3. I saw “Apocalypse Now” in the theater when it first came out. You may recall Willard’s first lines were something like: “Saigon…Shit. I was still only in Saigon.”

    The guy sitting in front of me was a Vietnam vet. He said, “Saigon. Shit. They’ve got it right from the start.”

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  4. It’s hard for me to see “Apocalypse Now” as anti-war when I think about the famous “Flight of the Valkyries” sequence. Coppola may well have been trying to emphasize the absurdity of war … the attack was motivated by Kilgore wanting to surf, after all … but FFC seems to have gotten awfully caught up in the excitement and drama.

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  5. Apocalypse Now was based upon Joseph Conrad’s book Heart of Darkness. From the Collins Classics edition, I quote. “Conrad used Heart of Darkness as a vehicle for his exploration of human mores – morals and ethics. He was intelligent enough to understand that qualities considered virtuous are relative and subjective. Kurtz manipulates the belief system of the natives for his own gain, but becomes morally bankrupted by the atrocities committed in his name…’ We see how the belief systems of Kurtz, Kilgore and others become corrupted as they encounter the atrocities of war. This phenomenon was evident in the My Lai Massacre which Coppola eludes to during his film. If you have not seen it, I would recommend the movie Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse. The tension and edginess that Coppola captured in Apocalypse Now were in many ways a result of the chaos the surrounded it’s filming.

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  6. There is of course much that can be said about this movie. Which version you watch is important too. This seems to be the case where all of the later, longer cuts of the film didn’t really add anything.

    Is it an “anti-war” movie? What is an “anti-war movie”? You hear this time and time again, people say something along the lines of, “any movie that portrays war accurately is an anti-war movie”. I think that is true. I would add that at the same time, if you have told the story faithfully you will also inevitably glorify something as well. War brings out aspects of humanity that are not touched anywhere else, some horrifying, some glorifying.

    If you’re idea of an anti-war movie chooses to neglect either the horrifying or the glorifying you risk missing one of the central points of making a war movie at all – riding the devils razor of the contradiction.

    Maybe you can think of some that miss the boat.

    W^3

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  7. Your comments on Wagner are not really accurate. The piece from the opera deals with the retrieval of the dead from a battlefield, so that they may be honoured accordingly. The irony lies in the paradox that the dead are civilians who are not honoured. The linkage to Naziism, although facile to make given Hitler’s adoration of that composer, is nonetheless specious.

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