The movie is about the heart of darkness and that everyone has a different and evil side to them. Also about insanity and horror of Vietnam.
I don't remember this so well but I'll say what I remember.
The intro is great. I could write a whole bunch on just that 1 minute. There's the fan above his head which seems to be giving out helicopter sounds. This is saying that he can't escape Vietnam and it's insanity even when he's not out there fighting.
Willard's head is also upside down and away from the center. Did the director do this by mistake "OOPS I got the head upside down. Ah well lets leave it like that". No, the head is upside down because Coppola is trying to say that Willard is confused and messed in the head. The head is also not in the center of the shot. I think there was also a thing about the horrors being in his dreams or something.
There is a particular shot which superimposes four things over each other. There's Willard's head, the fire, a statue and something else. Anyway the fire over his head kinda adds to the horrors of war in his head and that he can't escape them. The statue symbolizes the horror as well.
Later there's that scene where Willard's naked and looks really messed up. He takes off his clothes which is meant to say that he is not civilized anymore and that Vietnam is a wild place or something. He then breaks the mirror because he wants to "destroy" who he is and get rid of all those thoughts in his mind. This was not actually planned and Martin Sheen who had been drinking, actually broke the mirror with his hand. Coppola continued filming and thought it was good stuff that he could use.
Extended metaphor in the film is darkness symbolizing the heart of darkness (evil and insanity). We are first introduced to this when the guy who gives Willard his mission, says something about this. Then we see Willard's head half in shadow and half in light. This shows that he's kinda on the borderline I think. Now I read comments on how people thought it was amazingly stupid how Marlon Brando was always in the shadow and we never really saw his face (except that part in the redux version). Well there is a reason to that. It's because Kurtz is the most insane of the insane in the Vietnam War. His face always in shadow says that he has been completely consumed by the horrors of Vietnam. In the scene where we first meet Kurtz, he is completely in shadow, but there is a small campfire where Willard sits. There is very little light on his face and he is surrounded by shadow. This means that he is very close to letting that horror consume him.
There was also a scene where they were on the boat and they check this other boat for weapons. They kill the people even though they didn't have any weapons. Lance(that surfer)randomly has camoflage paint all over his face when they're on a boat. This is ridiculously stupid right? Well it's used to show that somehow Lance is protected by the horrors or something. Also, Lance picks up the puppie dog to show his innocence in the war.
At the end of the movie we see Lance cleaning himself in the
rain whereas Willard is under the canvas. He stares at Lance and Lance looks back at him I think. Looks like a pointless scene. Anyways, Lance is meant to be "cleansing" himself of all the horrors of the war, whereas Willard is under the canvas and is not cleansed. Shows that he has been totally consumed by the horror.
Ending scene we see that statue again. Forgot how it goes. Anyway, the beginnning scene we saw the statue at the intro and now we see it again at the end. It was foreshadowing the horror or something, and something about the statue at the end shows that he has been consumed by his evil side.
Favorite quotation is: "Shit! Charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500."
Favorite scene: When they arrive at that place where they're meant to get that escort to the Nung River. There's Francis Ford Coppola filming the battle acting as a news reporter or something. He tells them "Keep going, like we're not even here" or something along those lines. ahahaha.
There's a whole lot of other stuff. Some really in depth stuff that I don't understand and won't go into, but that's the stuff that I can remember on the spot.
My overall interpretation is that despite the Chiefs high credentials and exemplary military record, in vietnam he experienced such horror that disillusionment set in. I experienced this in prison myself and fully understand the brand of insanity Coppola was aiming at. In extremely dire circumstances it's as if the superficial veil of life is lifted and all you have left is the horror.. the horror..
I feel the tiger was the manifestation of the unpredictability and terror of those who were in the jungle. On the boat the men were not "in" the jungle per say. But when the left their "base/home" (the boat) they faced danger that was not what they expected. They ventured in to the insanity that was the war/jungle, bringing to a face and cementing the pure terror the american G.I.'s felt in Vietnam.
After I watched this movie I lied awake in bed for hours trying to fix my head and I felt like I was going insane. I still didn't fully comprehend it. trust me the less you understand about this movie the better.
Once the government gets done using you to do their dirty work - they'll likely send someone like you to take care of you - seriously.
There are many horrors, the meaning is subtle, the concept deep and Coppola a genius. The actual genius really is Brando and his amazing interpretation of Kurtz.
At the outset of the movie Willard is looking for a mission to redeem himself from his sins. He hears Kurtz "confession" at the end and has to perform the inevitable, killing or as some say sacrifice. On a deeper level Willard also becomes the primordial Kurtz hinted to. Is he an errand boy or has Kurtz delivered him at the end,with Kurtz's own methods, ironically,thus giving Willard's misison a sense of accomplishment- finality.
Kurtz is lost to himself, exalted, but dies in a somber way, he tells Willard "you have the right to kill me not the right to judge me." Overcoming his fear he has unleashed the instinct to kill, the wild in all of us. He is Vietnam, he is the jungle, he is the unexpected ..."hero?"
Dying he confesses,two words, two words only :"the horror, the horror."
Best acting in the twentieth century btw.
So who is redeemed, both Kurtz and Willard, are they part of something greater than they bargained for? It seems they are caught in the same web, the darkness has set them free to see the light, like the diamond Kurtz hints to in his monologue.
I see it that Kurtz lost his mind bc he saw a formidable enemy, the Vietcong , heartless, brutal, organized assasins, NOT THE AMERICAN SOLDIERS> the Vietcong maimaned the orphans, recall.
I think that the real point of this film isn't specifically anti-war or about Vietnam. The war is only a backdrop to help drive that point home.
Rather, it is saying that the true horror of evil is that it is essentially irrational and can never be understood...and that violence and cruelty are inevitable; the human condition and the facts of nature make it so. Everything that we view as bad or evil is too deeply interwoven into life itself for there to ever be any hope of real change.
The suggestion is that, ultimately, we humans live in an insane & hostile world, where predation is customary, and our attempts at rationality & morality are merely self-serving.
This movie obviously parallels the Joseph Conrad novel "Heart of Darkness" (says so in the credits). The point of which is that each and every man has a darkness in heart and is capable of great evil.
The overlaying of this theme with Vietnam, is to make the point that war brings out that darkness in the hearts of men. And the winners of any war will be the ones who are strong enough to face "the horror" so to speak.
Vietnam was the first war carried on television, and changed Americans' perception of war. They couldn't handle seeing the savagery that exists in war.
It is all summed up nicely in Col. Kurtz' speech:
Good irony when Chief is killed by the spear. (Since it's a war with guns).
Great cross cutting at the scene when Willard kills Kurtz. It keeps going back to that bull or something. Anyways, it's meant to kinda say that Willard isn't even assassinating Kurtz anymore. When Willard was first given the mission it was an assassination mission, but he hardly assassinates Kurtz. Instead he's sacrificing Kurtz. That's why it keeps cross cutting to the bull, since it's meant to be a sacrifice. Also, what type of a soldier assassinates with a machete. I think it's meant to suggest savage nature in Willard or something.
I believe this was used in the Godfather as well. Only watched The Godfather twice or something, but I believe it was when the protagonist was becoming the godfather and at the same time he was committing a whole bunch of crimes and it kept cross cutting to his crimes.
There was also something significant about the playboy bunnies scene where the guy hangs onto the helicopter. Something about wanting to escape the place or something.
Don't really know what the significance of the tiger. Anyone know?
Anyways, a fantastic movie. Pretty much every scene from the original(not the redux) is full of great film techniques. A must watch if you can appreciate the true art of films, otherwise it's a real bore. Don't know much about the added in scenes from the redux.