I’ve been unreservedly harsh on Francis Ford Coppola. That’s my personal takeaway message from Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmakers Apocalypse. Sure, The Godfather II was pretty good, as was The Conversation. But he’s never reached the great heights I seem to have held for directors. His most interesting film, Apocalypse Now, is well known for its production issues; so to have that well documented is the film historians finest dream.
Under the pressure of mounting deadlines, funding issues, sickness and constant re-writes, Coppola somehow managed to pull off one of the best Vietnam feature films ever made. His efforts are documented extremely well by director Eleanor Coppola. There are some beautiful shots of behind the scenes footage that set the tone of the documentary very well. Francis’ frustrations flow into the documentary, kicking in a rush of adrenalin.
There’s an almost transcendent feeling to the movie. An aura that revels in the mystery and struggles of Apocalypse Now and its failings. In depth interviews with those that starred, produced and were a piece of the film are detailed, interesting and add a resonance of depth to the disaster of creating the movie. Certain clips were cut I presume for the sake of time, but there’s a lot more to the story of Apocalypse Now than is shown here. But for what we see, it’s truly incredible and superbly interesting.
Coppola’s distaste for his own work and his hatred for the problems he faces are threatening to see unfold. A drive for perfection is met with a spiral into near insanity, and Hearts of Darkness manages to capture this with great detail from start to finish.
Taking the idea of a production diary to the next level, Hearts of Darkness is an incredible look into the struggles of making a major motion picture in the middle of a jungle. It captures perfectly the frustrations of its director, the health of the cast and the mentality you’d need to take on a project of this magnitude. It is documentary making at its finest, and far exceeds the enjoyability of the film it dissects.