Apocalypse Now (1979), Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam War movie about a man’s descent into madness to finish a mission, is very reflective of how it was made.
Since it began its production in 1976, Coppola’s project was doomed to fail – like a ticking time bomb that can easily fall in no time. The shoot in Manila, the tropical set-up of their Vietnam, went to horrible weather conditions. From thunderstorms to floods, expensive production sets that have been comprehensively built from scratch were easily destroyed.
Coppola’s vision from the very start was to create a war movie with so much authenticity. He had to champion expensive casting choices, from Marlon Brando’s $3.5-million talent fee in exchange for a month’s work and chunks of demands to try to pursue more big stars such as Jack Nicholson, Robert Redford, Tommy Lee Jones, and Al Pacino. With this kind of ambition and optimism, there’s no doubt Coppola is mishandling his budget despite desperately trying to lure producers for more funding.
Of course, we knew about Coppola eventually submitting money from his bank account to complete Apocalypse Now, but finishing the movie would require more than just cash.
Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991), the documentary of Coppola’s wife Eleanor about the making of Apocalypse Now, looks into the madness of the film’s production team never knew they needed to just finish the entire thing. It is arguably the best documentary about the horrors of filmmaking, if not, about the making of a certain movie.
To film her documentary, Eleanor Coppola had to go to the most extreme to capture her husband’s obsession and change of heart while making his film. With all the tragedies after tragedies, one can easily identify Francis Ford Coppola as an inconsiderate egotistic for still trying to push the project forward. Despite the multiple Academy Award trophies already under his shelf, it seems he is trying to prove something more out of himself.
Hearts of Darkness, much like Apocalypse Now, is all about how our internal war can easily overthrow what was happening outside. But despite the latter movie’s harrowing conclusion, Hearts of Darkness ended in a more positive note with how Apocalypse Now became this special award-winning movie celebrated in Cannes and the Oscars.
However, by the time we have finished the documentary, we can all agree that the greatest victory of Apocalypse Now was not its acclaim but, ironically, its failures. We can all agree that the best things in life are from disasters.