Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse is a documentary about the making of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Coppola fired his lead actor after several weeks of shooting, his replacement lead actor had a heart attack half way through the 238-day shoot, hurricanes destroyed his sets, army helicopters were called away in the middle of hugely expensive shots, and he didn’t have an ending. Good times!
In watching Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse again for the first time in a few years, I was struck by the sheer egomaniacal drive that spurred Apocalypse Now director Francis Ford Coppola forward — this is a man who, seemingly quite literally, went incrementally insane in the Philippine jungle… The overwhelming ambition and staggering scale of Coppola’s Vietnam-centric riff upon Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” are relics from another time, an era when filmmaking was a creative enterprise, not a corporate one.
I was never a huge fan of any of the Godfather movies until I watched the entire trilogy over the period of a week. (The Godfather – Part III is the dud of the series, infamously diminished by the casting of Sofia Coppola as Michael Corleone’s daughter. She can’t act. That’s not the only problem with the film, just the most obvious. It might be best to pretend Part III doesn’t exist.) The Godfather (Parts 1 and 2) are so good, so rich in character and story, so masterfully acted and directed, there’s nothing I can say about the films that hasn’t been said with greater insight by hundreds of critics already.
Check out this one paragraph from the linked DVD Talk review: “Religion is important in The Godfather. In all of the films, sacred events are used as cover for the sin of murder, be it the christening in episode I or the street fair in the flashbacks in II, when young Vito (Robert De Niro) goes after Fanucci (Gastone Moschin). Notice, too, in that latter scene, Fanucci gets an orange on his way to the assassin’s bullet. Coppola often uses poetic imagery to tie together different events across this vast timeline. Oranges always foreshadow some kind of violence or death — older Vito (Marlon Brando) is getting oranges when he is shot, and later eating one when he eventually dies, in one of the most poignant death scenes in all of movie history. So, too, is Michael eating an orange when he is plotting various hits near the end of part II and again in the final scene of part III. Though not a recurring theme, one of my favorite images in the movie is in part I when Luca Brasi (Lenny Montana) is being strangled. Coppola steps out of the room and films the attack through a glass pane decorated with a fish pattern. Later, when Michael and Sonny (James Caan) and the others are informed of Luca’s death, it’s with one of the movie’s most quoted lines: ‘Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.'” That’s just a taste of what’s going on in The Godfather (Parts 1 and 2). Francis Ford Coppola was in the zone when he made these movies. The genius of the filmmaking reveals itself more with each viewing. Damn, I think I’ll watch them again right now. See ya!