2016 Q8 - to be successful a text must bring moments of joy
The film “Apocalypse Now” directed by Francis Ford Coppola takes the viewer on a brutal and unforgiving journey where they are exposed to the true nature of war stripped of the American ideology of patriotism, they see war for what it really is. This film’s purpose is not to deliver moments of joy. Instead its success is determined by the moments of realism.We follow an experienced soldier named Willard whose mission is to eliminate a decorated general, named Kurtz, gone rogue. Throughout the film we see Willard’s fascination grow for the general through reading about his life, but in the end, he still decides to kill Kurtz. Coppola shows the audience the true nature of war without any saturation, how there are no moments of joy, pride or fairness in war but only suffering and evil. However, despite the rarity of joyful scenes, Apocalypse Now is still a hugely successful film in how it shatters the positive connotations many young men believe about war, the film serves as a learning tool to show the audience how America glorifies war so that young men die meaningless deaths for “grocery clerks” as stated by Kurtz.
Several times throughout the film, there have been moments which are brutal and unforgiving, reflecting the insanity of the war. But also making Apocalypse Now the successful film that it is. One of these moments is when Tyrone ‘clean’ Miller guns down a boat full of Vietnamese civilians for no particular reason other than paranoia. Cleans instinctive act of violence really shows how unfair the war can be on the people Americas trying to protect, the Vietnamse civilians. A particularly gruesome example of the horrific actions of the Vietnam war can be seen on the Do Long bridge where Willard has to dismount to help the troops there stuck in a fierce battle against the Vietnam troops. Here we see several close shots of Willard crawling through the tunnels with periods of light and darkness, imitating how the soldiers feel, confused and disoriented. Sound is also used with the rattling of the guns from both sides, then a American soldier shoots a grenade at the screaming Vietnamese and everything is quiet. This scene shows the confusion and violence that defines the Vietnam war how men are screaming and running around living in horrible conditions and occasionally getting shot at. This is a successful aspect of Apocalypse Now as it enlightens the viewer that war is not about patriotism and defending your country, but more about madness and senseless murder. Also that war is unfair and unjust. What was the reason behind Clean’s act and the chaos at Do Lung Bridge and pass judgement.
Apocalypse Now is successful because it shows us that while the American soldiers in the war were suffering, America was attempting to cover up the lack of leadership prevalent in the war, how the war had lost focus of their objective and the soldiers were just wasting their time fighting an “impossible war”. Evidence for this has been strewn throughout the film. An example is where the men in charge order Willard to assassinate Kurtz; they ask him to assassinate him because Kurtz is the only general who was willing to take up command and turn this war around his own way. However, the leaders did not prefer his method, they called it “unsound” as it forced them to work and not continue their sluggishly lazy method of just sending men to die unnecessarily. Even Willard quotes “Charging someone with murder was like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500”. It exposes the Army’s hypocrisy how they allow innocent Vietnamese civilians to be killed but get extremely aggravated when Kurtz kills double agents to help turn the war. A scene that shows the true extent of corruption in the war is when Kilgore decides to risk his whole battalion just to go surfing in one of the most dangerous Vietcong outposts. While he analyses the waves, he completely disregards the fighting going on in the background. The fact that America has put him in charge shows the audience how much effort and care they really put in the Vietnam war.This makes Apocalypse Now successful as the audience can learn how America had completely fooled the public into thinking that the conscripted men were going to war for a purpose and actually making an impact to help both Vietnam and prevent the rise of communism. The audience can learn to be wary of America and not give in to the media so easily especially surrounding topics about war. No analysis of the techniques here …or how their use add value to the success of the film and its ability to show us a realistic image….
Throughout the film, there has always been a recurring theme of how there is complete disregard for the Vietnamese people. One of the first times we see this is during Kilgore’s raid of ‘Charlie’s point’ in which he massacres both Viet Cong and civilians without a moment’s hesitation. From a high angle shot the audience witnesses the bombings and shooting from the choppers on the Vietnamese. From this scene we can find racism coupled with undeserved hatred for the Vietnamese people, how there is no mourning or moment of sadness for the hundreds of passive Vietnamese while Kilgore gets furious at one of his planes getting blown up to the point where he diverts from the mission to kill her. Dehumanisation of the enemy is also prevalent by the way the American call the Vietnamese “Charlies” and having “chink eyes”. Another very prejudiced scene for the Vietnamese is where Clean murdered a whole boatful of civilians due to the paranoia of being killed by them. Clean has done this horrific act without any second thought due to the xenophobic nature of the American soldiers, however if they were American civilians this whole situation couldve been avoided entirely as there would have been less hostile racism towards the Vietnamese. This makes the film more successful as it teaches the audience how America has dehumanized the Vietnamese to make it easier for the Americans to be desensitized to killing them. It shows the audience how far America would go to win the Vietnam war, as far as to disgrace and murder a whole race just to keep up their good image.
Coppola has used several scenarios to show the audience how a brutal, unfair and gritty film can still be successful as it can teach you many important life lessons along the way which you can integrate into your everyday life. Coppola uses war as a learning tool for the audience, the Vietnam war is used as it was America’s most horrible war. This is because of the casualties and disarray prevalent within the film. Coppola tries to show how even the most joyless film can still be successful through other means other than enjoyment.