Watched Apocalypse Now last night. Short note about it within. Spoiler.

I know Brando’s character was insane, but I still felt like challenging his ‘revelation’ about the people who cut off the arms of the immunised children.

He assumed them to be better than ‘us’ for being able to do that. I disagree. It is simply a sign of lower civilization, barbarism. Lack of respect/understanding for the value of human life. Lack of understanding of the consequences of the action. Lack of empathy. All things (empathy, understanding, respect) inherrent in a more civilized society, all inherent in a ‘greater’ human being.

I think the point he was making was that they had the will to go farther then we would, and that’s why we were losing the war, in his view. He was adovacating extreme methods to completely wipe the enemy out.

Kurtz : We must kill them. We must incinerate them. Pig after pig. Cow after cow. Village after village. Army after army.

Scorched Earth Tactics.

In the same paragraph you qouted, Kurtz says “…If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral… and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling… without passion… without judgment… without judgment. Because it’s judgment that defeats us.”

He’s contridicting himself, but again, his view was that war should be total, that the side willing to go farthest in pursuit of victory would win, and that’s what the Generals did not understand. So he went off to fight the war his way…and so the Army decided to take him out.

Willard was thinking along similar lines when he said “Charlie didn’t get much USO. He was dug in too deep or moving too fast. His idea of great R&R was cold rice and a little rat meat. He had only two ways home: death, or victory.”

Like, you think he was a kind man, or a wise man, or a gentle man, or maybe just, like, a crazy man, because it’s all just life, you know like life, man and the blinding light of reason or truth or beauty, man, but all that’s just a big lie, man, it’s a big fucking lie.


Seriously, what the hell was Dennis Hopper doing in that movie aside from displaying the acute need for an intervention?

It isn’t the only movie. Haven’t you seen Blue Velvet?

Frank Booth : I’ll send you a love letter! Straight from my heart, fucker! You know what a love letter is? It’s a bullet from a fucking gun, fucker! You recieve a love letter from me, you’re fucked forever! You understand, fuck? I’ll send you straight to hell, fucker!

Dorothy Vallens : Hello, baby.
Frank Booth : Shut up! It’s Daddy, you shithead! Where’s my bourbon?

What’s really disturbing about that movie is that he reportadly read the script and said “I have to play Frank! I am Frank!”

Besides supplying booze and drugs to a 16-year-old Lawrence Fishbourne? Playing the role of the Russian from Conrad’s story.

As to the OP: he wasn’t saying the Vietnamese were ‘better’ then us, only that they were much, much tougher; however, in his amoral, Darwinistic world, isn’t that the very definition of ‘better’? I’d say the 4th-century Romans said similar thngs about the invading Germanic tribes.

My point was (and I should have made it clear in the OP, but it was too early in the morning) was that they aren’t tougher at all. Only that they have such an ill understanding of human life that it is easier for them to commit such barbaric acts.

His point is the same point made about Kaiser Soza (sp?) in “The Usual Suspects,” who killed his own wife and children. He then moved on a killed the families of the men who assaulted his family, and then killed their friends, and burned down their houses. He had the will.

But the point Kurtz and HPL were trying to make was that as far as war is concerned, those who put no moral limits on what you can do will win over those who do. Another line that points out this view is, "You train young men to drop fire on people. But their commanders won’t allow them to write ‘fuck’ on their airplanes because it’s obscene." Trying to clean up war and make it more civilized was insane. These were the “lies” that disgusted Kurtz so much.

Also, Col. Kurtz was a good soldier and a good man before he went to Vietnam. But in order to be a good soldier, he had to win the war. To win the war, that war, he could no longer be a good man, and that’s what was driving him crazy. You had to be a machine in order to fight such a war effectively, and Kurtz was trying to assemble that in his nightmare compound. As a thinking, feeling human being, Kurtz couldn’t divorce his moral side like his enemies could. He tried, but failed, and went insane.

He’s saying they’re stronger in the context that they will to cross any line to win the war, not physical or moral strength. And that the US was unable to fight on the same level, and too arrogant/superior/hypocritical to realize it.

My $.02


Lobsang, the contradiction you are having trouble with is actually the point of the whole movie. “Doing what it takes to win,” drove Kurtz outside the bounds of civilization. “Doing what it takes to win” wars is incompatable with civilization. When we go to war, it is part of a great collective insanity. Kurtz is a microcosm of what happened to America in Vietnam, and what is happening to America now.

The thesis of Apocalypse Now is that war drives people–and whole countries–insane.

I understand the moive’s point that a more determined, more willing side is a more successful side. I get that. I just disagree with the implication that if the enemies soldiers were determined enough to do that, then they are going to be more formidable, impossible to beat. That is true, but I don’t think it’s determination. I just think it’s something else. I don’t think it took those people all that much determination to cut off the arms, Just barbarity. Not determination.

I don’t think an American or ‘western’ soldier (except maybe in some extreme cases) would be able to do the same thing if he had the same or higher level of determination could do such a thing. His more evolved civility would make him mentally incapable of doing it.

So maybe it’s true that a military of a more civilized society is doomed to fail against an army willing to commit horrible acts. But I don’t think they commit those horrible acts through greater will-power. Just through lesser sub-consicous and conscious regard for life. I think it is easy (compared to the civilized soldier) for the terrorist to do something horrible without remorse.

I see it like this. To them, cutting off the arm of a child would be to the Americans cutting off the tail of a cat. It would be unpleasant and they wouldn’t like it. But it wouldn’t be so terrible as to make them unable to do it for the ‘cause’. I think maybe they didn’t care all that much for the children who’s arms they cut off.

Horror. They simply have a different feeling of what horror is. Cutting off the arms is Horror. To those that did it maybe it didn’t go much further than ‘unpleasant’.

Now you need to watch Ernie Ford Fossilus’s parody, Porklips Now. Amazingly funny, but only if you’ve just seen the real movie.
Has anyone read Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1902) from which the movie is taken? I wonder how close to it (in terms of character, not setting {the novel was set in Africa}) the movie is.

A short summary I found. Interesting.

I especially like the last paragraph, as it ties in with this discussion quite well.

I don’t fully agree with that life philosophy, but it sure does explain the movie!

The movie retains only the barest outline of Conrad’s plot, but I would say the tone is pretty close, considering the time elapsed between Conrad and Coppela. Conrad’s protagonist goes through a more profound change than Sheen during the course of the story, IMHO.

No, to them it was horror. But more importantly, it was necessary.

That quote, which I love, also demonstrats the hypocracy of the war(or maybe any war) very nicely.