Apocalypse Now is perhaps my favourite film of all time (so far) and is arguably one of the greatest films of all time. Some may argue that The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Dark Knight or Citizen Kane are the greatest movies of all time, but for me the shear magnitude and scale of Apocalypse Now coupled with the incredible narrative and performance of the cast makes this Coppola classic the best of all time…
Meaning and storyline are essential to every film. The narrative of Apocalypse Now is incredibly well crafted and pieced together to great effect. As an adaptation of the novella The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad the film follows a similar storyline set in the modern era, the Vietnam War. Each episode of the film has a deeper meaning than meets the eye, as I read in an article about the film, each section, for example, the ambush of a Vietnamese village in the Kilgore segment or the meeting at the Do Long Bridge represents the decline of the mind into insanity. The river the crew travel along throughout the film represents the pathway into hell, or towards the Heart of Darkness, at their destination they come across the people who have already made the journey, and fallen into complete insanity. Colonel Kurtz, played by Marlon Brando gives a small yet powerful performance as he portrays the fall from grace and into insanity of this decorated war hero. Willard, played by Martin Sheen, is similarly impressive in his starring role, capturing his characters alike descent into insanity as he struggles to leave war behind. “I wanted a mission, and for my sins they gave me one.”
As well as the gravity of performance and narrative, the behind-the-scenes of the filming process became incredibly infamous. Dennis Hopper reportedly got a 14 year old Laurence Fishburne addicted to heroine, who had in turn lied about his ago in order to get the part. Martin Sheen suffered a heart attack whilst filming and Marlon Brando turned up over weight, hence his characters lack or lighting during his limited scenes. Coppola as well struggled to get to grips with the scale and cost of making his epic, with the film spending three years in production and being labelled as ‘the most expensive film never made’ because of the lack of a final piece and mystery as to its quality. Upon release the film was described as a great disappointment and intellectually lacking, since then it has been ranked 14th best ever by Sight and Sound and selected for preservation by in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”.
In my opinion the overall scale, of the narrative, production and filming make Apocalypse Now the greatest film of all time. With incredible performances, amazing setting and cinematography and the deep meaning of the wonderfully crafted narrative make it at least the greatest war film of all time without doubt.