Admiral Kurtz Apocalypse Now is a film about madness. In this film, Willard, played by Charlie Sheen, is sent through madness, reminiscent of Dantes' journey through hell. His mission is to kill Kurtz, who's gone insane according to military intelligence. Kurtz has gone on his own, starting his own society in Cambodia, where his troops and the local tribes worship him as a god. Kurtz has committed murder by waging his own ferocious, independent war against Vietnamese intelligence agents with his own native Montagnard army across the border in an ancient Cambodian temple deep in the jungle. General Corman explains the confused insanity of the war: 'In this war, things get confused out there, power, ideals, the old morality, and practical military necessity.
' The colonel has become a self-appointed, worshipped godlike leader / dictator of a renegade native tribe. General Corman describes Kurtz's temptation to be deified: 'Because there's a conflict in every human heart between the rational and the irrational, between the good and the evil. The good does not always triumph. Sometimes the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. Therein, man has got a breaking point. You and I have.
Walter Kurtz has reached his. And very obviously, he has gone insane. ' Kurtz's motivation behind his actions is his need to feel godlike, to act without judgment. In Kurtz' camp, a site of primitive evil, they are greeted by a crazed, hyperactive, fast-talking, spaced-out free lance photo-journalist played by Dennis Hope. The babbling combat photographer, garlanded by his camera equipment, hopes for their sake, that they haven't come to take away Colonel Kurtz.
He describes the great awe all the natives have for their jungle lord: 'Out here, we " re all his children. ' The photojournalist appears to be a fanatical follower of Kurtz, worshipping the enigmatic, genius 'poet-warrior' Kurtz as a personal god and expounding Kurtz's cause: 'You don't talk to the Colonel, you listen to him. The man's enlarged my mind. He's a poet-warrior in the classic sense... I'm a little man. He's a great man.
I should have been a pair of ragged claws, scuttling across floors of silent seas, I mean... He can be terrible. He can be mean. And he can be right.
He's fighting a war. He's a great man. ' He offers first-hand advice from his own experience: 'Play it cool, laid back... You don't judge the Colonel.
' Willard is impressed by Kurtz's power over the people. He notices Captain Richard Colby among the native's tribesmen. The crew returns to the boat to wait until Willard can talk to Kurtz. Chef feels that the Colonel is 'wacko, man. He's worse than crazy. He's evil...
It's f -- kin' pagan idolatry. Look around you. ' Willard leaves with Lance to scout around and try to find the Colonel, keeping Chef on the boat and instructing him to radio for help if necessary: 'If I don't get back by 2200 hours, you " ll call in the air strike. ' Willard sees hundreds of bodies - proving Kurtz' insanity: 'North Vietnamese, Vietcong, Cambodians.
' He realizes Kurtz's power over life and death: 'If I was still alive, it was because he wanted me that way. ' Willard soon finds himself in awe of Kurtz's power over people. He is fascinated with him and his ways as a leader, and he begins to see Kurtz in the same way the tribesman do. Willard feels ambivalent about his mission's task, finding Kurtz brilliant but rambling and spiritually troubled - as the camera pans across mythic texts (The Holy Bible, From Ritual to Romance by Jesse L. Weston, and James Frazier's The Golden Bough) in Kurtz's headquarters. Kurtz speaks of the 'horrors' that he has seen in the bloody conflict, and denies that Willard has any moral right to judge his actions or behavior. Kurtz also believes that 'moral terror' and 'horror' are necessary to preserve civilization as he philosophizes with further pronouncements.
Kurtz believes the atrocities revealed for him the moral strength and commitment of men who loved their families and could still act so monstrously 'without judgment' - with a primordial instinct to kill. According to him, those revelations have accentuated the moral ambiguity of war and justified his rampage in Cambodia - a mass-murder and mutilation of the enemy 'without judgment,' to shorten the war. Kurtz wants primitive men, similar to agent Willard on his mission, who can kill without judgment 'because it's judgment that defeats us. ' The conventional war effort of Americans (with high-tech bombs and other machines and weapons of war) will ultimately be defeated by triumphant opposition forces of primitives that are committed and determined (web). Kurtz, always seen in dark surroundings within his temple headquarters, allows Willard to carry out his sacrificial mission at night. Willard's head rises up out of the steamy primordial depths of filthy water as he begins to stalk his prey for the slaughter - the imposing, bullish Kurtz.
Lightning strobe effects and the frenzied rhythmic sounds of the Doors 'The End' accompany the slaying of Kurtz with a machete. It is a ritualistic decapitation, brilliantly crosscut with the brutal sacrificial slaughter / killing of a carabao / water buffalo by the natives as a ritualistic sacrifice to their gods (web). As he dies Kurtz mutters a few final words, accepting the evil present in the human soul, "the horror, the horror". The old king / chieftain of the people is sacrificed, in order for the land to become liberated. With the bloody machete in hand, Willard is given a path through the awed, native throng. The subservient villagers bow down to their new powerful god-like leader, but Willard refuses the opportunity to become their new god and king.
With his bloody mission accomplished, Willard guides stoned-out Lance to the patrol boat so that they can begin their return journey. They retreat in the gunboat as the natives close in on them on the banks. As they pull away, a cleansing hard rain begins to fall and static-filled radio transmissions play in the background, as soon the US planes begin to rain down a cavalcade of explosives and destroy the Kurtz compound. In the end, Kurtz's final wishes were not fulfilled, as Willard did not take his place as the leader of his people. Kurtz believed he has achieved his godlike standing, feeling he could kill without judgment, like God, and in the end, let Willard kill him, in and effort to make Willard like him, the perfect warrior, to act without judgment.
American Psychology Association. (2000, March 19).
web [2000, March 26].
Amex II Apocalypse Now. Apocalypse Now, A hellish Journey (1999, September 17).
web Available: [1999, September 19].
Apocalypse Now Site Index. (2000, March 26).
web Available: [2000, March 26].
Apocalypse Now. Apocalypse Now Tribute. (2000, March 26).
IMDB. Movie Reviews Online. (1999, December 01).
web [2000, March 26].