Jasmine Omorogbe- Thoughts on Apocalypse Now
First off, I would like to note that this film really FREAKED me out. I had a major headache once it was over from trying to piece it together and understand the bigger picture. I even felt uncomfortable while I was watching it. There is a creepy, dare I say, just plain weird undertone throughout the film and neither the viciousness of the scenes, the music, nor the lighting help counter that.
In â€œThe Politics of Ambivalenceâ€? reading, Tomasulo states that, â€œit was a common marketing strategy of the American cinema to attempt to deal with controversial subject matter by having it both ways, so as not to alienate segments of the mass audience who have feelings on one side or another of a particular issueâ€? (3). (I cannot make out the page numbers on the photocopy, so I will cite using the actual page number of the document). This strategy makes a lot of sense economically; however personally, I get no sense of â€œpro-warâ€? from this film. Tomasulo talks about the â€œvictorious rushâ€? the audience is supposed to feel when the film shows â€œthe US winning battlesâ€?. Maybe itâ€™s just me, but I missed the â€œrushâ€?. All I felt was sick to my stomach and ashamed of my own country. The scene in which they ruthlessly shot the Vietnamese people on the boat really upset me. They were unnecessarily rude to the people and did not take the time to search the boat efficiently in the first place. In addition, they jumped the gun and mercilessly shot them all dead for no reason. They were innocent people. Tomasulo says that scenes like this one â€œdepict the absurdity and outright lunacy of Americaâ€™s Vietnam policies, as well as the machinations of high-level military commandersâ€? (5) which indeed they do. But after 2+ hours of similar horrible scenes, I do not see how anyone could walk away feeling pro anything. I think though its goal is to remain ambivalent, this movie is more anti-war than anything else.
The main messages I got from the film were that WAR COMPLETELY SUCKS and WAR WILL DRIVE ONE CRAZY. Nothing in the film came to a good end. The leading officials who sent Willard on the mission in the first place were crazily thirsting for Kurtzâ€™ blood. Willard started out the movie crazy but ended up way worse. Even my personal favorite, Lance who started out as a fun loving surfer was zombie-like by the end of the movie. Kurtz was clearly off his rocker, even though as Tomasulo discusses, he was successful in his efforts. These soldiers were expected to do things that no ordinary civilian would ever do. Their orders were insane, but they were trained to follow them without question and became desensitized to the cruelty they were perpetuating in the name of the US. Eventually as briefly mentioned in the beginning of the film under a different context, a soldier gets to his â€œbreaking pointâ€? where he changes-flees from his normal, moral self into a hardened soldier with no feelings. I call that crazy.
Nothing in the film came to a good end. Tomasulo quotes the filmmaker, Francis Ford Coppola made Apocalypse Now â€œto assist Americans in â€˜putting Vietnam behind themâ€™â€? (2). I could not possibly disagree more. Even watching it today, those images resonate in my mind, they are not easy to forget. I feel that watching a film like this during that time period would not offer closure but instead scratch open the wound and sprinkle salt in it. It would only make me angrier. The film does nothing but show the cruel, imperialist attitude of the US, demonstrate the corruption of leadership within the armed forces in addition to the harsh reality of death on both sides. How the heck could that possibly set the stage for Americans to â€œhealâ€? the wounds of war and move on? Moreover, I donâ€™t see how Apocalypse Now could possibly offer closure when it was made to be purposefully ambivalent. I believe closure comes when something is decided one way or another, not left up in the air. Lastly, I feel that the weight of those things (death, corrupt leadership, unnecessary cruelty to civilians) completely outweighs whatever small pro-war sentiment some viewers may claim to see portrayed in the film.