Apocolypse Now Redux

I saw the Redux the other day and I appreciated the movie a lot more then I did before (the fact it’s been years since I last saw it probably had a bit to do with it as well). For the Redux, I would say the only thing that really felt out of place was the French Plantation Sequence. I understood why it was there, but it came off like an excuse to bring the film to a dead halt while making Martin Sheen and the audience listen to a lecture in heavily accented French as to what it wrong with America’s Foreign Policy for 20 minutes.

Anyway, after the end of the movie, I have two questions about the film.

  1. Exactly why did Kurtz go to jump school? Martin Sheen’s character wonders about this, but the question is never really answered. Is to prove he’s “fit” in the darwinian sense so he can make his “perfect army” we see towards the end?

  2. Exactly what did Martin Sheen’s character plan to do at the end of the movie? He left, but he apparently didn’t plan on going back for debriefing (“They were gonna make me a Major for this, and I wasn’t even in their fucking army anymore”). Go off and live in the jungle? Does the book Heart of Darkness cast light on this?

Heart of Darkness won’t really shed much of any light on Apocolypse Now. The book and movie are about two very different events - the common theme really is about the trip down the river - the decent into the darkest reaches of man. That being said, read the book, it’s excellent.

Sorry I can’t help much with your questions, it’s been way too long since I’ve seen the movie for my recollections to be fresh enough to answer.

  1. Jump school is part of a well rounded Special Forces training regimen
  2. What happens to Willard is left purposely vague… the one thing for sure is that he definitely didn’t take over for Kurtz. Maybe he went back to the States and became a mail carrier or the manager of a Burger King

After Willard calls in the air strike, presumably he reports back. It’s not made terrifically clear, but one has to imagine that he needs a way to get back to “civilization,” considering he is stranded in Cambodia or wherever.

In Heart of Darkness, Marlow is telling the story as a flashback, while on a boat on the Thames. If this is any indication, Willard would return to the Army with an incredible story to tell.

It’s been a little while since I’ve seen it, but I thought that he didn’t call the airstrike. I seem to remember that on the DVD there is a special feature of the destruction of the compound, which they filmed in case they decided to end with Willard calling in the strike.

  • Bubba.

A few years ago I read a screenplay of AN that I think was an early draft, and it either started or ended with Willard back in the US as a poltician’s bodyguard (or some VIP) and he meets Kurtz’s widow on a yacht. I don’t remember if he said anything to her, or it was just used as an internal dialog segue to his dealings with the colonel. I’m thinking it was the latter, and I think it was at the beginning of the film.

I always took the meaning of that line non-literally; he’ll report back for debriefing, accept whatever promotion/assignment is offered, but he’ll never fully be “in their fucking army” again after having operated outside of official jurisdiction like he did performing a mission that “does not exist, nor will it ever exist”. Willard made the decisions he made further in the depths of the jungle than military authority could reach, and his eyes were opened in much the same way as Kurtz’s. He was able to avoid being destroyed by what he saw - but he ultimately acted under no authority greater than his own, just as Kurtz had.

Or perhaps I just like over-analyzing things. :smack:

Okay, I understood that, since Willard was talking about his own experience in jump school.

However, he does bring up the fact that kurtz was 37 when he did it after applying 3 times and was wondering how the hell…and why…he would do it at that age.

I think the story about Kurtz entering special forces was used to illustrate his break with the traditional military, particularly the leadership. Willard mentions that Kurtz was being groomed for a command position, but he chose to stay on the ground and return to the jungle. Something in Kurtz identified with the primal aspect of warfare rather than the structured protocal of the brass and their “Timid, lying morality.”

The scene involving the commanders in Saigon (with Harrison Ford) was used to establish the prevaling military attitude – Bureaucratic, dispassionate, almost detached. That’s my take, anyway.

I agree the French Plantation scene was better left on the cutting room floor. It was a great looking sequence, but did little to advance the story and disrupted the pace of the film. Still a brilliant production IMHO.

Interesting. I don’t know of any such draft, but this does sound like a plausible intermediate stage for an adaptation. In the book, the primary narrator is un-named, but he relates Marlow’s story as told to him (?) on the Thames. I’ve always taken Conrad’s structure as a series of layers: the narrator who reports what Marlow says who reports what Kurtz says. And this is matched to the sense of the journey upriver as the trip into the heart of darkness. There’s a centre to the novella both structurally and geographically. But all we learn about that centre is Kurtz’s report of “the horror, the horror”. Unlike in the film, Conrad is careful to document, at least in part, the journey away from this centre. An important part of this is that Marlow travels to Brussels to talk with Kurtz’s widow.
One of the problems I have with the film is that it completely abandons this idea of overlapping narrators. Without it, the issue of what is at the head of the river becomes too important, too immediate and Coppela’s solution is a fat, bald Brando reciting T.S. Eliot. I suspect Herr realised this and tried to fix it at the voiceover stage, but by then it was too late to impose a different structure. And then the difficulty I had with Redux was that it subverted the rules Herr had imposed, e.g. “don’t get off the boat” because something bad will happen if you do.

Bubba, I don’t own Redux, but you inpired me to rewatch the ending. He definitely didn’t call in the airstrike, but apparently there are versions where he does, right? Or I am addled?

semp: The bit about Willard meeting Kurtz’s widow would be straight out of the ending of Heart of Darkness: Marlow meets Kurtz’s Intended to tell her how her fiance died. She asks what his last words were, for her “to live by,” and instead of telling her he said “The horror!,” Marlow tells her Kurtz said her name… oh the irony, as white women were the symbol of Europe’s willful blindness to the evils committed in Africa… and so, Marlow seals The Intended up in her ignorant darkness forever. A very bleak ending. I wonder why Coppola cut it. Could have been interesting, and it was sort of the coda that put the final touch on the message of the original story.

Can you tell I wrote a big essay on this in college?

According to this site, the draft of the script I read was by John Milius dated 12/3/75. And amongst changes from this draft to what eventually made it to the film are: “Next scene: in U.S., a cocktail party, Willard works as a body guard for some rich business man. Voice over by Willard, he starts to tell his story about Vietnam”; and “When Willard returns to US he goes to meet Kurtz’s wife. Willard lies that Kurtz’s last words were about her.”

There is also a link to the script, if anyone feels like trudging through it.

I wonder, though, if the film would be helped by including such scenes. I doubt it, and I actually didn’t care for the restored scenes of the surf board theft and the almost jovial camaraderie between Willard and the crew of the boat because it seems so wildly out of place concerning how they relate throughout the course of the film. Willard’s an outsider, then he’s one of the guys, then he’s an outsider again. It just didn’t work all that great.

Kurtz went to jumps school and joined the Special Forces because he was a true warrior, not a beurocrat. Joining Special Forces IIRC, would prevent him from ever achieving a rank higher than “colonel”. He was willing to give up “a top position in the organization” to fight the war, not shuffle papers and make pretty speeches.

We hear Chef attempt to call in the airstrike from the boat ("…Almighty Almighty…this is PBR “Streetgang”) and we hear “Almighty” reply. What isn’t clear is whether or not the message got through before Chef was…ah…interupted.

Willard and Lance sail off on the PBR “Streetgang” at the end.
The whole French plantation scene sucked and could have been done away with. From the opening sceens in Da Nang, to Kilgores assault on the village, to the playboy bunnies and finally to the Do Lung bridge, there is a visable and gradual collapse of military discipline and civilization. The bridge serves as a gateway that tells us “this is the point of no return”. Once they go past, they are now in Kurtz’s crazy world and we start to see the boat itself fall apart.

Now the whole momentum is broken by a 20 min rest stop at a French bed & breakfast.

I kinda agree with you on the comaraderie charge, but I found the surf board aftermath quite amusing, and somewhat fitting for Kilgore.

Willard left the army, found a civilian job, and made friends with a rodent named Ben.

I’m a huge Apocalypse Now fan, and looked really forward to Redux… I was very disappointed. I agree with all of you on the French Plantation scene. What a waste of time. In fact, I didn’t like pretty much all of the additions. Other that the FP scene, the one that bothered me the most was the surfboard theft. This scene totally changed one of the greatest film characters ever, Kilgore. He became a joke rather than a symbol… plus it robbed us of one of the great film exits, where Kilgore says (somewhat regretfully, I think) “One of these days, this war’s going to end”, and then disappears into the smoke.
About the only additions I did like were the extra scenes of the boat going up the river, which looked beautiful.