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Francis Ford Coppola, Apocalypse Now Arts One Jon Beasley-Murray March, 2014.

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Presentation on theme: "Francis Ford Coppola, Apocalypse Now Arts One Jon Beasley-Murray March, 2014."— Presentation transcript:

1 Francis Ford Coppola, Apocalypse Now Arts One Jon Beasley-Murray March, 2014

2 Combat helicopters in Operation Pershing

3 Adaptation Imposition Inscription Destruction Termination

4 In Coppola’s film, the fantasy of an investment with Kurtz is much stronger than in Conrad’s novella, but ironically all the more impossible. Coppola’s dream is to do away with the technology that has made this war crazy. But without that same technology, the film itself could not be made. He fears that we are in a war without end(s), only exacerbated by the media used to record it.



7 Adaptation: Congo to Vietnam A remake of Heart of Darkness But a very unfaithful remake… Congo to Vietnam 1890s to 1960s Colonialism to war Sailor to assassin Novella to film

8 Adaptation: Congo to Vietnam Difference is a virtue Other influences: Homer, Dante… What does Coppola do for Conrad? --updates and incarnates What does Conrad do for Coppola? --provides structure, plot --lends dignity, literary gravitas

9 Adaptation: Congo to Vietnam Is Conrad racist? Is Coppola racist? NB: in Coppola, racial difference internal Is Coppola for or against the Vietnam war? Is he for or against war? Does Coppola identify too much?

10 “This is the way the fucking world ends! Look at this fucking shit we’re in, man! Not with a bang, but with a whimper. And with a whimper, I'm fucking splitting, Jack.” “This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a whimper.” (Eliot)

11 “My film is not a movie. My film is not about Vietnam. It is Vietnam. It’s what it was really like. It was crazy. And the way we made it was very much like the way the Americans were in Vietnam. 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.” (Coppola at Cannes, 1979)


13 Kilgore on the beach

14 Imposition: Planes of Vision mise en scène and montage VP7NQ VP7NQ

15 Imposition: Planes of Vision The movie as the real An immersive experience (also sound) But we see what never could be seen An oneiric reality --a nightmare made flesh No distance between real and representation

16 Imposition: Planes of Vision meta-filmic commentary 8hNM 8hNM

17 Imposition: Planes of Vision Theatre and set What’s real is what is constructed New self-delusion: “Don’t look at the camera” A war of technology


19 Apocalypse Now title

20 “We train young men to drop fire on people, but their commanders won't allow them to write ‘fuck’ on their airplanes because it's obscene!”

21 Inscription: Text as Image No credits But a film rich with text From graffiti to official reports Recording and inscription part of reality Words name and claim the real …But Willard gives up on writing as arbitrary --allows signifiers to float

22 Kurtz’s bookshelf

23 Inscription: Text as Image A modernist or postmodernist text? --recycles modernist classics --unabashedly commercial Despite lack of titles, the work of an auteur --surrounded by paratexts --legitimated by literary ambitions?


25 The aestheticization of violence? lfkI lfkI Diagesis and non-diagesis

26 “I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn't find one of ’em, not one stinkin’ dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like victory.” “Disneyland? Fuck, man, this is better than Disneyland!”

27 “Humankind, which once, in Homer, was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, has now become one in itself. Its self-alienation has reached the point where it can experience its annihilation as a supreme aesthetic pleasure. Such is the aestheticizing of politics as practiced by Fascism. Communism replies by politicizing art.” (Walter Benjamin)

28 Destruction: and distraction Benjamin’s essay also about reproduction --loss of the “aura” --and its democratizing potential --but also as a source of danger Is Coppola’s film democratic/democratizing? What is the role of culture? (Wagner?) --distraction or edification?

29 Destruction: and distraction Is Coppola’s view of violence instrumental? …or absolute? Willard’s notion of a mission evaporates A violence that knows no end(s) Blurred lines: real and filmic violence --the real stands in for the symbolic


31 “Someday this war’s gonna end” “That'd be just fine with the boys on the boat. They weren't looking for anything more than a way home. Trouble is, I'd been back there, and I knew that it just didn't exist anymore.”

32 The Fall of Saigon

33 Termination: This is the End No end(s) means no beginning End where you mean to begin “Terminate with extreme prejudice” Terminable and interminable

34 Termination: This is the End Is it light or dark at the end of the river? Is Coppola’s movie more invested in fantasy? --a fantasy that now constitutes reality The Doors’ “The End”: paean to Oedipus --but Oedipus story about futility of remaking Apocalypse Now Redux: self-remaking

35 “I’ll go on. You must say words, as long as there are any--until they find me, until they say me. (Strange pain, strange sin!) You must go on. Perhaps it's done already. Perhaps they have said me already. Perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story. (That would surprise me, if it opens.) It will be I? It will be the silence, where I am? I don't know, I'll never know: in the silence you don't know. You must go on. I can't go on. I'll go on.” (Samuel Beckett, The Unnameable)

36 More Resources Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” Michael Herr, Dispatches

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