Apocalypse Now (1979, Francis Ford Coppola)

Plot : http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078788/



This film adapt Joseph Conrad’s psychological adventure novel Heart Of Darkness into a guerrilla Vietnam War movie [9] and was nonetheless critically acclaimed for its vivid and stark depiction of the Vietnam War,[2] This film won the Palme d’Or at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival.


Francis Ford Coppola is one of only eight filmmakers to win two Palme d’Or awards.[3] [4]

Francis Ford Coppola stresses that movies have to have “quality and integrity because they have such a tremendous influence on the world and on people[7]

Francis frequently uses long tracking shots that create a sense of scope and allow audiences to feel the gravity of even small moments in his films.His characters don’t always have to say what they’re thinking, the audience knows, and the music helps them feel it .[5]

The opening music of the film : The Doors l The End (Apocalypse Now)


The lyrics of the starting music sums up the whole film with a montage style visuals [10]

In Apocalypse Now , Francis started out the film with a upside down image across a plantation with smokes and fire follow up with a fan spinning .I think the upside down image was use to create a sense of disorientation in the audience mind making us feel for the main lead, Lieutenant Willard have a upside down life. The fan spinning i think was to simulate the blades of a helicopter because the follow up scene show a a napalm air strike




Lighting play a very big part of pushing this film together with the music/film score/sound design. His sound design together with his visuals further push the war scene he trying to depicts. The lyrics of the film also help the films alots.

The whole film is made up of slow camera movement. Most of the times the camera is stationed right on the boat, and we see what Willard sees. The Film has slow tracks, slow pans and generally slow movements which is what Francis is known for.



Francis also use darkness in this film to push the dramatic emotions of the film together with the fog and smoke which occurs to make us feel confused , disoriented and blur can be seen being use throughout the movie.



Most of the time the characters is half lit . The shadows make up the other part. This type of mood lighting make us think if the main lead is stuck between the dark side of evil or the holy side light . In alot of scene it affected us thinking whether Lieutenant Willard will continue his mission or give up half way , whether Lieutenant Willard will be joining Colonel Kurtz




This also show that the director is trying to tell that the story is very dark with his lighting treatment.


In this film he also have alot of close up and even extreme close up shots of Lieutenant Willard. I think he trying to force us to relate to feel and to get into Willard situation so that we can relate better feel the character more better to understand the meaning of the story and the see the progress and feel the growth.



Ebert added Coppola’s film to his list of Great Movies, stating: “Apocalypse Now is the best Vietnam film, one of the greatest of all films, because it pushes beyond the others, into the dark places of the soul. It is not about war so much as about how war reveals truths we would be happy never to discover”.

Various commentators also debated whether “Apocalypse Now” is an anti-war or pro-war film. Some says the film’s anti-war message include the purposeless brutality of the war, the absence of military leadership, and the imagery of machinery destroying nature.



Francis Ford Coppola talk about Apocalypse Now in an interview [7]

One of the quotes from the director that spur me and motivates me alot is this Francis Ford Coppola makes movies to understand himself. [8] I feel this quote from the director  can motivates anyone who is doing any type of art form , it serve us as a purpose to be driven and do something for yourself and not for the sake of commercial purposes. To Francis Ford Coppola money is secondary, what he want is to get his story across and let people know. I feel this is the true meaning of film making.

Author :Chew Keng Hao , An aspiring director and director of photography. You can find out more about him via : http://chewkenghao.wix.com/kenghao


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Apocnow.jpg
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Ford_Coppola
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1979_Cannes_Film_Festival
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apocalypse_Now
  5. http://www.4filmmakers.com/2011/05/27/a-study-of-francis-ford-coppolas-dramatic-style/
  6. http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/movies/2012/09/the-clippings-file-francis-ford-coppola-and-the-big-show.html
  7. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=warHLZyBKAg&feature=player_embedded
  8. http://articles.latimes.com/2012/dec/07/entertainment/la-et-mn-francis-ford-coppola-conversation-20121208
  9. http://www.avclub.com/articles/francis-ford-coppola,67900/
  10. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXZpPW_qJyM
  11. http://sensesofcinema.com/2006/great-directors/coppola/

One thought on “Apocalypse Now (1979, Francis Ford Coppola)

  1. Hi keng hao, i like how the way you say about how the director use the shoots and what he is trying to say though those shoot, and it’s very well done. But what i think who make it better is perhaps add in a little bit of historical in it, since it’s a film about post Vietnam war. i’ve added a little about it and hope it helps make it better.

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