Apocalypse Now Essay, Research Paper
Weekly Writing- Apocalypse Now
Apocalypse Now is a vivid account of Vietnam, and the damaging effects of the war, based on the novel by Joseph Conrad. The film takes the view down Nung River into Cambodia, where the darkness is discovered and civilized war ends. A separation is formed in this film, between the soldiers and society and likewise morality and confusion. Throughout the movie the viewer is witness to the changed man. Although we see definite discrepancies to the degree of this change, it is apparent in all of the soldiers. From the young characters of Clean and Lance, to Willard, who ultimately becomes the individual who comes to understand the darkness and the ?horror? that average person can never imagine.
Music is a very important part of the film, encapsulating horrific scenes, connecting the known to the unknown- for most of us. The opening scene of the film plays ?The End? by the Doors while we view massive explosive sequences. The music symbolizes the despairing ending of human morality that is created by war. The music can also been seen as a release for the soldiers. Music and drugs ultimately become the means for dealing with the atrocities of the jungle. This is exemplified by the young characters of Clean and Lance who we see dancing to the music and doing drugs throughout the movie. For Clean and Chef drugs are an escape. However, Lance uses the drugs to bring himself closer to the environments that he encounters in their journey into Cambodia. He adapts himself to the community of natives who are under rule by Kurtz, and because of this he survives.
Ironically many, or I should say most, of the leaders we encounter in the film are on the brink of sanity. The first leader we meet in combat is a general who cares more about the surf than the accomplishment of the mission. However, because he realizes that the mission must be completed in order to surf, then it is consequently completed. Perhaps its only these men, on the brink of insanity, that can be successful in leading missions of such brutality.
The journey into the jungle takes the viewer into the heart of the darkness, providing the viewer with the indications that we are getting deeper into the evil as we progress down the river. In one scene, Chef decides to venture off the boat to search for some mangos. Willard follows and they are surprised by a tiger; the ultimate representation of Kurtz. Kurtz power thrives from his ultimate adjustment and separation form the military, from his adoption of surroundings. He becomes a creature of the jungle. Who knows the jungle better than those who live there? Certainly not the U.S. military, and Kurtz realized this. Perhaps Kurtz realized that he could never return to a society, especially one who calls him a murderer. His only option before death, (which he eventually chooses) is to embellish himself in the madness of the jungle. In another scene closer to Cambodia we encounter the increasing madness as well as racial injustice. The blacks, positioned to guard a bridge that is of no use, are heavily drugged and in an increased state of paranoia. In the final leading scene the boat becomes enclosed by Indians on boat, enclosed into the heart of the jungle and its inhabitants.
Adaptation is the key theme to this movie. We first see how Willard has been adapted to the life in the jungle in the opening scenes of the movie. His voice-over relates to the viewer the pain he feels as his actions come into the context of society?s morality. He feels himself getting ?softer? with every minute he spends in the hotel room. Willard could never return to society, his separation could be seen when he burns a hole through the graduation picture of his wife. ?Before he goes deep into the Vietnam jungle in search of his prey, the rebel Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, Willard must cut himself off from the past, from his emotions, from his familial values? (Jeffords, pg. 428). Adaptation ultimately becomes the madding curse of Kurtz, as he comes to the realization that in war the ruthless succeed. The ?horror? is the adaptation to the evil; the adjustment to a dark morality.