Hearts of Darkness – A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse

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  1. Linda Linguvic says:
    78 of 83 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    A stirring portrait of the making of a masterpiece, January 3, 2002
    By 
    Linda Linguvic (New York City) –
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    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)
      
    (REAL NAME)
      

    Subtitled, “A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse”, this 1991 film is a documentary about the making of “Apocalypse Now”, the 1979 film based on Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”. Set in Vietnam, it is the story of a captain, Martin Sheen, and his crew’s mission to find and kill an insane colonel, Marlon Brando, who had created his own kingdom deep in the Jungle. On the way, everyone is touched with the evil around them. This summer I saw the re-edited version of the film and have been intrigued by it ever since. When I heard about this “Hearts of Darkness” I just HAD to see it.

    The filming of Apocalypse Now was supposed to take just sixteen weeks at a budget of $13 million. It wound up costing more than $30 million, much of it put up by Francis Coppola himself, and took almost three years to get to the public. Coppola’ wife Eleanor and their three children went along on location in the Philippines. She was interested in making a documentary and shot a lot of behind-the-scenes footage, even secretly recording private conversations she had with her husband about the film. The authenticity of the experience really comes through, as everyone involved with the production seemed to go a little bit insane.

    Coppola had serious doubts throughout and we hear his words of despair as he thinks he’s making a bad movie. We see the terrible typhoon that destroyed all the sets and realized that the helicopters that were being used for the shooting were actually property of the Philippine government who kept calling them away to fight a real disturbance that was going on just ten miles away. We see shots and scenes that never made it into the original film (although much of it eventually made it into the 2001 “Redux” version). We see and overweight Marlon Brando who insisted on being filmed in shadows. And we are right there to watch the filming of the scene in which Martin Sheehan has a mental breakdown. In order to do this he became bleary-eyed drunk, cut his thumb on a mirror and used the blood as part of the scene. The intensity is chilling and when, a short time afterward, he has a life-threatening heart attack at the age of 36, we’re all there to see him as he is given first aid.

    Now, years later, some of the actors are interviewed about their experiences. We learn that they did a lot of drugs during many of the scenes – acid, speed, marijuana, alcohol, which certainly added to the authenticity as well as the craziness of the whole production. Robert Duval talks about how his famous line “I love the smell of napalm in the morning was improvised. And the whole cast talks about how they improvised a massacre scene. Laurence Fishburne was only 14 when the film was made, a real coming-of-age experience for him. But this very stirring film portrait belongs to Francis Coppola. We get to meet him as a very imperfect human being doing his best to create an art form out of the script, changing it constantly as he went along, and eventually turning out a small masterpiece which went on to be nominated for eight academy awards.

    I give this video my highest recommendation. It is a “must” for movie buffs. And an essential education for anyone involved in filmmaking itself. Don’t miss it!

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  2. Weston J. Kathman says:
    17 of 20 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Wonderful Documentary Is Even Better than the Actual Movie, June 2, 2000
    By 
    Weston J. Kathman (Lakeside Park, KY USA) –
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    Shot by Francis Ford Coppolla’s wife, Hearts of Darkness is an incredible, one hour fifty minute documentary that reveals the horrors of making the very popular Apocalypse Now. The film took forever to make, driving many of its participants to the brink of insanity, not just Coppolla, who was emotionally-unstable for much of the film. Viewers of this fascinating documentary will be amazed to learn that Harvey Keitel was originally cast as Willard, but was dropped after only two weeks of shooting. Though only 36 years-old, Martin Sheen suffered a heart attack during filming, an event that further postponed its debuts in theaters. There is some really great footage included here, especially the shooting of the opening sequence of the film which involves a very drunk Sheen lashing out as both his character and himself (at that point, Sheen was experiencing a lot of hostility towards Coppolla and had it out with him right then and there, an episode that would appear in the finished movie). Even if you didn’t particularly care for Apocalypse Now, you will most likely find Hearts of Darkness interesting, nonetheless. It is a magnificent look at the troubles and triumphs of a film crew headed by a somewhat mad, but brilliant director. This shouldn’t be missed.

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  3. Mike Liddell says:
    16 of 19 people found the following review helpful:
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Hope that a little fat girl in Ohio will be the next Mozart of film., April 20, 2008
    By 
    Mike Liddell (Massachusetts) –
    (VINE VOICE)
      

    This review is from: Hearts of Darkness – A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (DVD)

    Destroying professionalism and making it an art form. This is some of the wisdom from Francis Ford Coppola on this documentary made by his wife Eleanor on the making of his film, the godfather of Coppola films in my opinion, Apocalypse Now – The Complete Dossier (Two-Disc Special Collector’s Edition)

    The interesting thing about Apocalypse Now is that with probably over 1,000 reviews here on Amazon counting the different versions you could probably get a different interpretation for each review. It’s so good and so deep and has so many metaphors that it could mean any number of different things for viewers and nobody would be wrong.

    I’m not going to try to analyze this documentary however because you have the people involved with this masterpiece giving their own perspectives on the doc. What I will do is list some things I found interesting in hopes of generating some curiosity for people to see this fascinating work. It made me want to see the film again and read the book Heart of Darkness (Norton Critical Editions) and if you haven’t seen Apocalypse Now, as a film lover I envy you.

    – Harvey Keitel was originally cast to play Capt. Willard and was fired and replaced for Martin Sheen.

    – The part in the hotel room where Capt. Willard is spiraling out of control was just as much Sheen. It was his 36th birthday he was drunk and actually punched and broke the glass mirror and broke down.

    – Martin Sheen suffered a heart attack while filming and was actually given his last rights, halting filming for a couple of months.

    – Coppola mortgaged his own house and used his own money to make the film.

    – The boat going down river and the crew specifically Sam Bottoms character was actually under the influence of drugs while filming most of the time.

    – Some filming was shot during a typhoon that killed nearly 200 local people.

    – Hearts of Darkness was supposed to be Orson Welles first movie instead he did Citizen Kane when it fell through.

    – Some of the script was written and altered by Coppola while filming influenced by his dreams and most of the movie he did not have an ending for.

    – A civil war was taking place in parts of the Philippines while shooting and helicopters used for the film from the Philippine govt had to be taken straight out of filming and into battle.

    The film really shows you art imitating life.

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