APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX directed by Francis Ford Coppola (USA,1979 – director’s cut 2001)

Brando as Kurtz

The  directors cut of this outstanding movie is 49 minutes longer than the original release but more does not mean better.

While Coppola may have been satisfied with the revised, redux,  version it’s hard to see that it adds anything radically new or notable. Aside from rejigging some scenes, the main change is the addition of a boring sequence where the crew encounter a French plantation in Cambodia.

This means we have to endure a lengthy dinner table debate about France’s involvement in the war which merely prolongs the climactic moment when Officer Willard (Martin Sheen) reaches the heart of darkness in the form Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando).

Brando was notorious for being practically unmanageable but when his performances are as mesmerising as this, no one can complain. He only appears in the the final forty minutes of the three hour epic yet his role is what elevates this movie to the status of masterpiece.

He is seen mainly in the shadows, adding to his enigmatic presence but also conveniently hiding how overweight he was. His delivery of lines about childhood memories in Ohio, of the absurdity of war and his reading from T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men are quite rivetting, all the more so as they contrast with the wired verbosity of Dennis Hopper as a photojournalist.

Willard’s mission is to reach and terminate Kutz’s command of on the grounds that he has gone insane and that his methods are unsound. “Are my methods unsound?” Kurtz asks with mock innocence;  “I don’t see any methods at all, sir” Willard answers.

This sums up the movie’s depiction of this insane war in general. There are no methods, only madness. One soldier receives a letter where one of his family is praising Disneyland – he looks around and says words to the effect that Vietnam is a kind of  diabolic Disneyland; a nightmarish world where normal codes of behaviour cease to have any meaning. And when reason and morality are absent, all that remains is the horror.