The line “Mistah Kurtz – he dead” from T. S. Elliot’s poem ‘The Hollow Men’ refers to one of the movie’s main characters: Mr. Kurtz, a European trader who had gone into “the heart of darkness” ie the middle of the vast Vietnamese jungle with European standards of life and behavior. Because he’s alienated from the morals and spiritual strengths he cannot maintain his sanity and soon turns into a barbarian. “Eyes they dare not meet in dreams” – in my mind, these are the eyes of the innocent Vietnamese whose death they ordered.
They’ being the American soldiers who, throughout the duration of their journey through the jungle lost their sanity and were brainwashed because of the weapons they were given. What I was particularly fascinated by in the film ‘Apocalypse Now’ was the way the good can somehow turn into the evil, not on their own, but because of their surroundings. “[.. ] We were in the jungle, there were too many of us, we had access to too much money, too much equipment and little by little we went insane” –said by director and producer, Coppola at the Cannes film festival in 1979.
Even the director had, little by little, gone insane being exposed to the Vietnamese jungle for so many years. The making of the film had taken more than 10 years and $30million to create which had brought Coppola to attempted suicide a couple of times. The film is based on the novella ‘Heart of Darkness’ which took place during the Vietnam War, where the American and the Vietnamese soldiers showed no mercy when it came to a matter of life and death.
Throughout the film, I realized that the main character, Captain Willard, sent to assassinate Colonel Kurtz, began to be more and more captivated by Kurtz’s achievements and was beginning to think like him as he was exposed to immoral atrocities of the Great War. When General Corman described Willard’s mission to him he told him “In this war, things get confused out there, power, ideals, the old morality, and practical military necessity. Out there with these natives it must be a temptation to be god.
Because there’s a conflict in every human heart between the rational and the irrational, between good and evil. The good does not always triumph. Sometimes the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. Every man has got a breaking point. You and I have. Walter Kurtz has reached his. And very obviously, he has gone insane. ” This quote reminds me of Dante’s Inferno mentioned in the poem “The Hollow Men” – a journey through the different circles of hell depending on the type of person one was and the type of crime they had committed during their lifetime.
The man is clear in his mind but his soul is mad. ” Like Alberto Giacometti, Kurtz and Willard develop two faces during the time of the war. The only difference is that Giacometti didn’t need a war to show this, his dual personality was natural in criticizing himself, his paintings and his sculptures. Whilst watching the film I found it mainly disturbing how these men, men with families, men who had peaceful souls, could casually blow off the head of a Vietnamese person without feeling just a tiny bit of hurt in their hearts.
They could “kill without feeling… without passion… without judgment… without judgment! Because it’s judgement that defeats us. ” The fact that these characters, sent out on mission through the rivers of a foreign place, were simple men, one a chef, the other a surfer, and the other a sailor gives the audience the feeling that this could happen to anyone. Being placed in the jungles of Vietnam with nothing but weapons would turn us into these animalistic beings with only one instinct: kill to survive. Do you know that ‘if’ is the middle word in life? If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you” This film is, in fact, all about losing one’s mind, being brainwashed by the immoralities of society, to be converted into an emotionless killer. It’s about the delusion of what an evil man is in the normal person’s eyes compared to what an evil man is in the brainwashed person’s eyes.