|Apocalypse Now Mini-Seminar Questions- Extra Credit
1. Describe the film's opening. How does it set us up for the rest of the film?
2. One of the most memorable things about the film is the narration, written by Michael Herr and spoken by Martin Sheen. What role does the narration play in the film as a whole, and what are some of your favorite moments? How does the movie’s narration compare with the narration in Heart of Darkness?
3. Think about the scene in which Willard is briefed on his mission. What impression does the General make on you? Do events bear out what he has to say about Kurtz?
4. The two central characters in the film are of course Kurtz and Willard, though we do not see Kurtz until near the end. Look at the way their characters are developed. How do we learn about them, about their backgrounds? Do we learn more and more about them as the film progresses?
5. This is a voyage of discovery for Willard, and he realizes that from the very beginning. What does he learn--about the war, about himself, about humanity in general?
6. All the war scenes have an ironic craziness about them, though the earlier war scenes seem somewhat less nightmarish than the later ones. How is this atmosphere created? Think of the cinematography, sound, setting, as well as the story itself.
7. How does the setting (the Jungle, the River) contribute to the overall mood of the film (very much like the novella)?
8. At the time it came out, many critics loved the first part of the film, but felt that it rambled off into never never land towards the end, so that the film came off as an overblown, failed masterpiece. They are certainly correct that the film moves into another dimension as Willard approaches Kurtz, but the question is, do you find the latter style justified? Or simply pretentious? Either way, support your judgment.
9. Much of the flavor of the last part of the film comes from the source, Conrad's Heart of Darkness. In fact, the film's most famous line, Kurtz's "The horror; the horror," comes is a line in the novel. What is "the horror"? What has happened to Kurtz in his Montagnard kingdom?
10. What do you think of the ending? Is it appropriate? Does the plot work-out as it should?
11. It is of course hard to watch this film and not think about our current political situation, particularly given the way that Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan seem intertwined in the public mind. To what extent are the lessons of Apocalypse Now relevant to us today?