Watch this as soon as you can…
Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam War masterpiece, is being rereleased in cinemas for its 40th Anniversary. There are many reasons to re-watch this classic piece of cinema.
This has to be seen on the big screen, even if you have seen it countless times before. Its cinematic scope is one of the widest in any film. Every possible shot. from extreme close ups of Willard’s (Martin Sheen’s) eyes to grand, sweeping shots of the helicopters flying across the sky, is taken. The use of lighting, particularly in the scene introducing Kurtz (Marlon Brando), is some of the most effective and memorable. Considering the bleak subject matter, and the title of the source material, Heart of Darkness, the fact this film is so colourful and eclectic in its choice of hues is ironic. It is also a pleasure for the eye, contrasting heavily with the horrors this film depicts. There is a visual magnificence to this film that is best appreciated on the big screen. Apocalypse Now is a film cinema still exists for.
Going to the cinema is also important for appreciating the impressive audio work of Apocalypse Now. Willard’s 1940s film noir inspired narration is perfectly delivered by Martin Sheen. It is utterly captivating to hear. There is a grave solemnity and weariness to his voice that brings great significance to every word said. The intimidating blades of the helicopter turning into the relaxing rotation of the ceiling fan, then back again, is one of the smartest examples of sound editing in a film. The film is also accompanied by an excellent soundtrack, which swings from Wagner to The Doors. Along with a score that enhances the growing tension of the film, every song in the soundtrack feels like a perfect fit for the scene in which it is played. Listening to this film, without seeing it, would be a powerful experience in itself. Accompanied by the impressive visuals, this film is going to dig deep into your memory.
Such visual and audio spectacle is well-suited to an ambitious narrative. It depicts the journey taken by Captain Willard into the jungle of Cambodia to “terminate” the insane Colonel Kurtz. Below the surface of this seemingly simple plot lies a horrifying representation of the craziness of war. Its depiction of war is one of blurred lines, paradoxes and ironies. The journey into the jungle is highly symbolic, but of what? The film has confidence in the viewer’s ability to decide for themselves. Whilst some sequences feel tangential, toilet breaks on a car journey preventing us from reaching the haunting and captivating conclusion, these faults can be forgiven. The narrative is so ambitious and compelling that you forget this film is over three hours long.
Visually breath-taking and marvellous with regards to sound, this grand and ambitious narrative is told magnificently. It was meant to be seen on the big screen and waiting for its arrival on Netflix will not do it justice. Go see it in the cinema!