Coppola’s classic is considered by some to be the greatest war film of all time
A great cliché about war states that it brings out the best and worst in humanity. War results in a situation where the rules are thrown out, safeguards are dropped, and the extremes are allowed into the mainstream since “war is a continuation of politics by other means” as Clausewitz said long ago. Cruelty, treachery, kindness, heroism, are all amplified and become more prominent on this horrific stage. The Arab word “Jihad” is quite poignant when it comes to matters of war since it refers to both an internal and external struggle. And it’s precisely the essence of this dual-front battle that makes Apocalypse Now more than just a great war movie.
Loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the Vietnam War setting serves as the external struggle and the backdrop to the more important battle, the one inside the soul.
Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando) represents the inner struggle of the soul. A very talented and intelligent man, the tragedy of the war shakes the philosophical underpinning of his being and makes him reevaluate his entire existence. This reflection leads him to strip his identity old identity away and build a new one better suited to his new self. Yet his movement from the old to the new isn’t complete and the arrival of Captain (Marting Sheen) only reinforces the conflict within him. Coppola’s ambiguity nevertheless suggests that Kurtz is cognizant of the purpose behind Willard’s visit and blesses his own liquidation by his hands. Kurtz’s approval of his own slaughter demonstrates that he himself has no control over his own self even while he serves as a God-King over a tribe of hill natives who quake in fear of him. Therefore his elimination is seen not only as necessary, but as a release from the torment that he is going through. Read the rest of this entry »