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Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991)

September. 06,1991
| Documentary

A chronicle of the production problems — including bad weather, actors' health, war near the filming locations, and more — which plagued the filming of Apocalypse Now, increasing costs and nearly destroying the life and career of Francis Ford Coppola.


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As somebody who had not heard any of this before, it became a curious phenomenon to sit and watch a film and slowly have the realities begin to click into place.


It's an amazing and heartbreaking story.


There are moments in this movie where the great movie it could've been peek out... They're fleeting, here, but they're worth savoring, and they happen often enough to make it worth your while.


Released in 1991, "Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse" chronicles the making of 1979's "Apocalypse Now," combining footage shot by Eleanor Coppola during the shooting of the film with more recent interviews with the cast & crew.Documentaries or commentaries on how a particular film was made don't interest me because I'm not a filmmaker and only care about the final product. As a writer and former musician I'm familiar with the creative process and understand how some ideas fail to deliver the goods and must be thrown out, etc. As an example, I heard some demos of a couple of my favorite songs and they were lousy compared to the final product and almost ruined my view of those songs. This explains why I'm generally not interested in the harrowing details of how my favorite movies were made and the parts that were thrown out, etc. This documentary is an exception because (1.) "Apocalypse Now" is my all-time favorite movie (the original theatrical version, that is) and (2.) the documentary is just so well-done. In fact, it's fascinating from beginning to end."Hearts of Darkness" shows the monumental problems Coppola and crew encountered in making the movie: The sudden firing of their leading man (Harvey Keitel) after three weeks of shooting and replacing him with Martin Sheen; the delays in filming due to the Philippine Army taking back their rented helicopters to quell an uprising; a hurricane that ruins the sets; Sheen having a heart attack at only 36 years of age and the corresponding delay; overweight Brando arriving to the set totally unprepared and making $1 million a week with an unwritten, improvised ending; the amusing tiger incident; Francis venting in genuine uncertainty at various stages of the creative process, particularly the entire ending; etc.The interviews with cast and crew are also very informative and entertaining, like Frederic Forrest's commentary on the tiger sequence and John Milius' insights on his original screenplay and his encounter with Francis during filming where the latter convinced him that it'd be "the first film to win the Nobel prize." This documentary came out ten years before the "Redux" version of the film was released and, as such, it was the public's first glimpse of various scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor, like the French Plantation sequence and the typhoon-with-the-bunnies sequence. In my opinion, "Redux" is a failure and those scenes should've never been inserted into the movie as very little of the added footage works, but those sequences ARE interesting as deleted scenes or viewing them (in part) in the context of "Hearts of Darkness." For some good laughs, be sure to check out the spoof of this documentary: "Hearts of Hot Shots Part Deux: A Filmmaker's Apology," which was released in 1993 and is available on Youtube in a couple parts.The film runs 96 minutes.GRADE: A


Documentary about the chaotic shoot that went into making the modern classic "Apocalypse Now" that notoriously went way over budget and schedule, with numerous delays in filming in the Philippines because of either the government or the weather, not to mention a change in lead actor that led to the fortuitous casting of Martin Sheen, and the difficult but key involvement of costar Marlon Brando, and an unfinished script. There was even speculation that the film would collapse, and force director & writer Francis Ford Coppola into bankruptcy.Interesting to a point of course, and the famous final line "The Horror" takes on special meaning in this context, but may have lost some power in this era of DVD/Blu-Ray documentary extras that are now so common, and just as good as this, if not better...


Superb documentary on the making of one of the greatest movies of all time. Apocalypse Now as a finished product is a brilliant work of art. An adaptation of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, it is much more than a war movie. It is a psychological drama, an examination of humanity, sanity and the insanity of war and an exploration of the darkest of human nature.This documentary details the making of the masterpiece, which was as much as drama as the movie itself. Possibly the most grueling ordeal film-makers have undergone for their craft. Time over-runs, budget blowouts, filming in the middle of a civil war, firing the lead actor, the new leading actor having heart attacks, troubles with another (and very big-name) actor. Just about everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Yet, the movie was made, and was certainly worth all the effort.A study in perseverance, vision and suffering for one's art.


I'm still trying to understand what "making of" means. As a film student I was expecting to grasp useful informations that could explain to me why "Apocalypse Now" took so much time to be produced, why Coppola tried to kill himself and so on. Unfortunately I can say it's one of the most tedious making of I've ever watched, because all the horror, the problems, the dreadful filming diary don't explain anything, in the end I feel like the irresponsibility or Coppola own's money took over so that many production problems would come up due to over-pretension.Maybe I'm being harsh, but for me the documentary was pointless to watch, there are very few things you can take into account, I turned off my TV and thought Coppola speaks too much and says nothing on Hearts of Darkness, he's not being clear but redundant all the time.If you are like me and want something more solid, go for "Lost in La Mancha" that tell us Terry Gilliam's nightmare, It's much better, interesting and rather sad.