Monday, September 25, 2006

The Horror, Revisited

I swore never to watch Apocalypse Now again. After having the finest cinematic experience of my diseased life watching the "Redux" version at Cinerama (Seattle's largest screen and loudest sound system), I made my big fat oath never again to see it. What could top this glorious sound and fury?

Well, so much for swearing, I watched it again the other day. I'm glad I did.

There is an implicit theme in the film that may or may not be the work of Francis Ford Coppola, the writer/director/producer. On the commentary track, Coppola posits that great art accomplishes what it does not appear to accomplish; in other words, the sum of the whole goes beyond logic and creates an experience transcendent from the material. I believe he succeeded in transmitting that kind of experience here.

Coppola talks about the river journey towards the heart of darkness. He describes the soldiers going back in time even as they move closer to their target, the jungle-maddened Colonel Kurtz. By the time they reach Kurtz, they have reached a primal nexus of human experience, a timeless place of myth and blood, and there is enacted the first story of humanity, the killing of a king and ascension of his assassin to the throne. I think there is more going on, even more than this profound truth of our species.

I think the title gives away an implicit theme: the apocalypse is happening now, and is always happening NOW. That is an eschatological assertion, okay, but that's what I'm talking about: Revelation is always, constantly, perpetually at play in humanity. As we go forward we are also going backwards. Consequently we always stand at the end of the world, because the world is always in the process of ending. Perhaps, then, this is what Kurtz means when, with his dying breath, he whispers, "The horror, the horror." He may be seeing the perpetuity of doom that surrounds us.

That, if you ask me, is heavy stuff.

Far be it from me to say that this or that is what Coppola wanted to do with his incredible film -but it has imparted an experience to this one guy over here and he's not afraid to blog about it! Should you happen to watch Apocalypse Now anytime in the near future, let me know if you agree or think I'm way off in some mad jungle of my own mind; I'd appreciate the dialogue.


Andy Bates said...

While I have yet to watch the Complete Dossier (redux or un-redux), I did have the pleasure of talking to someone who worked on the documentaries for the DVD. At the very least, it is nice to see that there are filmmakers who are able to revisit their earlier works, yet still acknowledge the importance of the original, unadulterated version.

wngl said...
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