Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991) Review

Directors: Fax Bahr, George Hickenlooper, and Eleanor Coppola

Genre(s): Documentary

Runtime: 96 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

IMDb Page

Making a movie, especially one as epic in scale as Apocalypse Now (1979), can’t be easy, and this documentary sheds some light on a time when it seemed like everything that could go wrong did. Yes, this is Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, the famous behind-the-scenes look at the aforementioned 1979 Vietnam War film. Featuring interviews, making-of footage, and recordings of Apocalypse Now director Francis Ford Coppola that were originally intended to be private, this is a must-see picture for fans of the feature it covers (well, if you can handle some animal-related violence, that is).

Coppola actually prevented this documentary’s release on DVD for a while thanks to what he considered to be a less-than-flattering depiction of himself. He doesn’t come across as a monster here, but I can see why he didn’t want this side of him to be seen more widely. He was really stressed-out and probably in over his head during the long, chaotic, and arduous shooting of the movie.

The thesis of Hearts of Darkness seems to be that the filming of Apocalypse Now mirrors the experiences of the characters in the motion picture and of the United States in the Vietnam War. It was a desperate undertaking that felt like a slip into insanity. In the end, the Hellish shoot paid off for Coppola and the filmmakers, but the same cannot be said for the Americans and their allies in the war. Apocalypse Now was a case of directorial hubris gone horribly…right.

I think I actually enjoyed watching Hearts of Darkness more than the picture that it’s centered around (though the 1979 flick is still good). Watching it, it’s hard to believe that the final movie turned out as a well as it did (though I won’t spoil the tribulations faced by the cast and crew, in case you’re out of the loop). This is probably one of the better feature-length behind-the-scenes film documentaries out there.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

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