Apocalypse Now - Alec Charais
I have never felt more confused, irritated, and uncomfortable about a film that I have watched than I did about Apocalypse Now. As we discussed in class, the Vietnam War was clearly a war America lost. I think the feelings of the American public towards the Vietnam War, the military, and it' s leaders were symbolized quite well by Coppola. America did not understand what it was doing in Vietnam, and many felt the actions of the Johnson and Nixon administration played politics with American lives. Apocalypse Now plays politics, in a way, with the audience with it's ping pong effect of playing both sides of the coin when it comes to it's depiction of war, the military, and the Vietnam society.
There are many examples of how Copolla illustrated America's concerns and lack of respect for it's involvement in Vietnam. One that stands out for me is the overly gung-ho Colonel Kilgore, who was the display of America's belief that it's military was all powerful. This belief in it's military might was what got the United States into trouble in the first place. Tomasulo writes in "The Politics of Ambilvalence" that "In some ways, Apocalypse Now shows the war not as immoral, only mishandled. It may be saying that had Americans made war with the passion of Colonel Kilgore, the cool of Captain Willard, and the brutal honesty of Colonel Kurtz, the United States would have won" (Tomasulo, 141). We see this in Kilgore's actions. His might and brutality were underscored by his belief that the world was essentially his oyster, and that his military machine was his tool to do his bidding. While leading an attack on the Vietnamese, it was more important for Kilgore to find a suitable spot to go surfing. The lunacy shown in this scene, as well as many others in Apocalypse Now illustrates how insane the situation in real life terms had become.
Even though there is a strong Anit-war sentiment in the film, I feel that Tomasulo is correct in his belief that Apocalypse Now was also a Prowar film. In the end of the film, Captain Willard carries out his mission, even though he may not have fully believed in his mission. His actions surprised me, as I thought the similarities between he and Kurtz were striking. Both were loners with no family ties and had little respect for command. After he dropped the knife he used to kill Kurtz and the Cambodian villagers did the same, I thought he was in a position to take over Kurtz's role as leader. In the end, Coppola seized the opportunity to show the American public's desire for victory when Willard gave the command to "drop the bomb" and "exterminate them all."