Apocalypse Now Essay, Research Paper
This film, from 1979 was directed by Francis Ford Coppula and starred Martin Sheen (Capt. Willard) and Marlon Brando (Col. Kurtz). The film takes place during the 1970’s in the middle of the Vietnam War. Coppula was rewarded for his hard work by winning the Academy Award for cinematography. The story is based on the novel “Hearts of Darkness”, by Joseph Conrad. The book and film depicts Capt. Willard in the middle of the Vietnam searching for Col. Kurtz, who has gone mad and started his own private war. Apocalypse Now uses its scenes to show three types of horror including psychological, gore, and surprise. Psychological horror plays with human rationalization. Gore shows a stunning or violent action. Surprise horror is instilling fear by catching the viewer off guard. Each type of horror appeals to different parts of human fear and requires different methods to pull it off properly.
Psychological horror is the fear of a believable, reasonable force. It outs a mirror in front of the viewer and asks him what he would in the situation. Many scenes in the film utilize this form of horror, but none more clearly than the river boat scene where Willard and his crew emerges from a heavy mist to see a large group of villagers facing them in their own boats. An uncertain grayness covers the screen and suddenly shifts to a vivid image of a group on the river that is staring forward, penetratingly grabs the attention of the viewer. The tension between the two groups is made apparent as the two opposing forces stare at each other. If one side makes any move the other is sure to as well and would mean deaths for both. The viewer is now put into the situation where they must ask themselves if they could handle the tension and not make any move. He also uses close-ups to show the viewer that these villagers are real people that have been made to look like and think like savages. Coppula uses psychological horror to illustrate the barrier between Willard’s world and Kurtz’s world as a means of horror in the viewer’s mind.
The second type of horror is gore, in which a painful experience is relayed to the viewer. Gore comes to life in films by using special effects to have the viewer empathize with the characters. The best example of this in Apocalypse Now is when the river boat captain is speared through the chest gruesomely. He then attempts to impale Willard, by him towards him and using the same blood soaked spear still in him, before he inevitably dies. When you see the captain get speared through his chest you feel sympathy for his suffering and you feel his anger when he tries to kill Willard. At the same time, the viewer feels the desperation of Willard as he fends for his own life. Coppula uses gore horror here to create the element of empathy and fear for both the Captain, who dies for what is really Willard’s war, and for Willard, who inadvertently has killed the Captain by putting him in this situation.
The surprise horror is created through a dramatic presentation of events or a sudden shocker. By timing a motion or noise correctly the viewer experiences the danger themselves of a situation. The scene that best uses surprise horror in the film is when Willard and the character Chief are in the jungle looking for mangos. The two are suddenly attacked by a tiger from out of the bushes and the scene explodes as the tiger chases both of them. Coppola uses the timing of the tiger’s attack to make the viewer feel the same reaction that the two characters in the film do. He also uses a moment of silence and then extremely clear sounds of the three creatures moving through the jungle to instill fear even more. The viewer immediately feels the surprised horror of being the prey of a large, viscous animal.
This film is such an important masterpiece in truly understanding just how gruesome and fear filled the Vietnam War was. Apocalypse Now is a film for not only people who lived during the War but also anyone who has ever wondered just what it would be like to be in one. The film uses horror to portray its point of how each second you were in Vietnam you were faced with death and terror. Coppola’s use of camera angels, visual effects, and horror make this film one for the ages. It would be in anyone’s best decision to take time and view this film with an appreciation of how good a job Coppola has done with his ability to impart desired emotions on his viewers. The film is brutal and chaotic at the same time, but it still is able to reach its audience in any decade with a form of reality and realness that only a film of this magnitude could acheive.