Small Screen Quarantine: Apocalypse Now Redux

What do an additional 49 minutes add to an already longer than average film? What does it take away from the original release. You could probably write a book on the differences between Apocalypse Now and Redux, and that’s not really where I want to go. I wouldn’t have even opened with the mention of the extra minutes were it not that it was so obvious. So what’s added? To the best of my recollection:

  1. Additional scenes from the journey up the river, right from the beginning. You get more of Willard mostly, and it’s all good. It humanizes him in a way, though it leans towards making the character inconsistent. Some things don’t jive with others. He seems at times less haunted and that may not serve the story at all.
  2. Additional scenes with the Playboy Playmates being pimped out at a muddy, horrible camp somewhere along the way. In and of itself it was okay, but it didn’t fit in with the story. It didn’t NOT fit in but it threw off the pace of the film entirely.
  3. A long scene at a French rubber plantation in the middle of the jungle. It lent a lot of historical context to the Vietnam war in general but didn’t do a lot for the movie itself. Perhaps Coppola thought it was too important to leave out given a second run at it. I don’t entirely disagree and it definitely establishes A.N. as an anti-war film, which I always believed it to be anyway, despite arguments to the contrary. Few people seem to remember these days that there was a war there at all, let alone a war that started with French occupation. They certainly don’t teach a lot about that in American schools. We get the part with our glory, and with our tragedy, and little else.
  4. Additional scenes with Kurtz. Thank you! These are, as far as I’m concerned, the ones that the original release lacked. You hardly saw Kurtz at all. He was a ghost. A shadow even. This was the most welcome of the added bits. And there was always a lot of ambiguity in the role of Kurtz in his own demise. Sometimes it seemed he wasn’t really there at all, but Redux straightens that out. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

So that’s the short version. That’s what you get if you’re willing to commit to the extra time. I’m still not sure if it added to the quality of the film or if overall it just gave you more of the film. I’m not a film critic. It’s not for me to say. I did enjoy it though. The major difference for me is that slowing down the story makes it less trippy. The original release was a dark, psychedelic nightmare vision. The added material makes it a very long, very good war movie. Or as I said above, an anti-war movie. That original nightmare release is hard to beat though. It’s definitely hard to beat.

My favorite addition… definitely Kurtz reading T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men aloud:

We are the hollow men
    We are the stuffed men
    Leaning together
    Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
    Our dried voices, when
    We whisper together
    Are quiet and meaningless
    As wind in dry grass
    Or rats’ feet over broken glass
    In our dry cellar
    Shape without form, shade without colour,
    Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
    Those who have crossed
    With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
    Remember us-if at all-not as lost
    Violent souls, but only
    As the hollow men
    The stuffed men.

That’s of course just the first stanza, and most appropriate for the film and for the character. This is the scene though that brings Kurtz to life in a way that he never truly lived in the original release. This was the make or break scene that should never have been edited. But I’ve said before, I don’t do reviews. I do recommendations and I recommend taking the three hours.

I’m also glad, by the way, that I watched this after reconsidering Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049. There are irrefutable parallels in Apocalypse Now and Blade Runner. There are inarguable parallels in Willard and Deckerd, and in Walter Kurtz and Roy Batty. There are the Frankenstein’s that have been inconvenient truths for polite society… dangers to the order of things… and there are the policemen sent to retire/terminate them. These are neverending stories in our world. We will murder before we’ll risk our mythology… our delusion… our simulation. We will protect the simulation at all costs and we will talk about ideas like decent and indecent, humane in inhumane, human and less than human. We will invoke our gods while we act our god fantasies.

And in both film franchises, the policeman is compelled/forced to confront his own belief in a diabolical lie. But that’s not fiction, is it?

So yes, recommended. Both versions actually, of Apocalypse Now, for different reasons. They are in a way two separate films telling the same story. Just the pace of the first one will fuck with your head more, and I do believe that we all need to put ourselves in situations that fuck with our heads… sometimes.

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