Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991)

Directed by: Fax Bahr, Gearge Hickenlooper, Eleanor Coppola

Starring: Francis Ford Coopla, Cast & Crew of Apocalypse Now

Awards: Won Emmy’s for Outstanding Individual Achievement – Informational Programming – Directing and Outstanding Individual Achievement – Informational Programming – Picture Editing (1992)

After a bit of a hiatus due to life stepping in, I’m back. I won’t bore you with the details, but to make up for my absence here is a three part look (other two reviews to follow) at how, just like life, the making of movies can get complicated.

First off, let’s take a look at the making of a classic. Hearts of Darkness: A Filmaker’s Apocalypse is a documentary about the behind the scenes for Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Having worked on a few movie sets myself, I’ve seen first hand some of the trials and tribulations involved with having a lot of people working under stressful conditions in tight quarters with clashing personalities. Nothing I’ve witnessed can compare to what the cast and crew for Apocalypse Now had to deal with in the Philippine jungles. Shot by Eleanor Coppola, the Director’s wife, Hearts of Darkness was meant to be a way to keep her busy while on set and also as a way to document the making of the film. What they got instead was a very personal look at human nature.

Apocalypse Now was a movie that defied the odds. Taped in a conversation with his wife unknowingly, Francis Ford Coppola confides that he thinks the film will be disastrous. He doesn’t like the ending and is shown to be clearly giving in to the pressure. At the verge of a nervous breakdown, one can see why after seeing the obstacles he has to face in telling his tale. One example is a Philippine military who loan him helicopters only to take them away at the spur of the moment to combat rebels. Another is having to replace main actor Harvey Keitel with Martin Sheen a week into shooting. Martin Sheen ends up having a complete breakdown while drunk in a scene as the audience gets to bare witness to a man battling his own personal demons.

The biggest confrontation in the film besides the Director being his own worse enemy is when he has to confront the main villain in his picture, Marlon Brando. Showing up on set exceeding the weight that the role called for, Francis is forced to shoot around him. Marlon Brando also proves to be a very difficult personality who forgets his lines, is impatient with direction, and overbearing. Despite all these problems and more that are shown by the documentary, Francis Ford Coppola overcomes his adversity and manages to create a film that is still highly regarded today as one of the best representations of the Vietnam War.

Here is the opening scene:

-Dantasia

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