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Movie Essay – Irony and Insanity in Francis Ford Coppola’s Film, Apocalypse Now

Irony and Insanity in Apocalypse Now

This is end of sanity. As Francis Ford Coppola suggests in Apocalypse Now, sanity is not the manner that would have settled the Vietnam conflict. Rather, through the character of Walt Kurtz, Coppola illustrates the means by which the U.S. Army could have decided the end of the war. Walter Kurtz is a psychopath. Walter Kurtz achieves success in Vietnam. Here lies the irony that Coppola brilliantly conveys. Thousands of troops arrived weekly in Vietnam without the proper arsenal of faculties that one needs to execute the actions essential to success in Vietnam. The boys are not insane enough to win. However, Kurtz, through his psychopathic tendencies, achieve success repeatedly in jungle combat. He was “winning the war his own way.”

In order to diagnose an individual with psychopathic deviance, or psychopathy, the individual must display behaviors that reveal four personality characteristics. Psychopaths are impulsive, manipulative, anti-social and pathagnomic (Hare and Shalling 5). The anti-social trait does not signify introversion. Rather, it refers to anti-social behaviors. Pathagnomy indicates the lack of a conscience. An individual who has no conscience can not discern between right and wrong.

Psychopaths display antisocial behavior and impulsiveness (Hare and Schalling 17). Antisocial behavior is determined as activities “not appropriate to the accepted functioning of one’s social relationships with one’s surroundings” (Hare and Schalling 37). Kurtz performs antisocial behaviors impulsively. Those evaluating Kurtz’s behavior due to their social appropriateness are his superiors. General Corman determines that his actions are not acceptable in the circumst…

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…uding antisocial behavior, manipulativeness, lack of conscience and impulsiveness, provide the most efficient manner in which to dominate and eliminate any opposition. Such initiative offers soldiers a means to survive and the U.S. government victory. The process, as Coppola explicates, is futile. Young boys become confused, frenzied, mad. Young boys are reinforced in a depraved manner. They receive rewards for their psychopathic deviancy with successful campaigns against the opposition. Kurtz understands this process and attempts to use it to his advantage in achieving success.

Works Cited

Hare, R. and Schalling, D. Psychopathic Behaviour: Approaches to Research. New York: John Wiley and Sons. 1978.

The editors of the Boston Publishing Company. The Vietnam Experience: War in the Shadows. Boston: Boston Publishing Company. 1988.

Searching For Meaning in Apocalypse Now

Searching For Meaning in Apocalypse Now

Francis Ford Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now takes the audience into a tense and mystical journey through the Vietnam War. This long and agonizing journey is seen through the eyes of Captain Willard played by Martin Sheen. Sheen. Captain Willard is assigned to a mission that relies on him to assassinate Colonel Kurtz, who is played by Marlon Brando. Although Apocalypse Now is an examination of the many terrors of society that are connected to the Vietnam War, Coppola plays much of his film off Joseph Conrad’s novel The Heart of Darkness. Conrad’s story focuses on Captain Marlow who is parallel to Willard and the Colonel Kurtz possesses many of the same characteristics in both works. In both works, the Captain is to find the Colonel, but Coppola makes a very significant change in his film. This significant change is the transition of Captain Marlow assigned to find Colonel Kurtz in the Congo, to Captain Willard assigned to assassinate Colonel Kurtz in Cambodia. The fact that Willard has now become an assassin of Kurtz is very important in Coppola’s over all point. It especially is important for the last ten minutes of the movie when Willard actually kills Kurtz. The final scenes of the film consist of Kurtz’ reading of the poem “The Hollow Men” and the interplay of Willard killing Kurtz while the Cambodian Natives kill a water buffalo in a ritualistic setting. These changes and departures of the ending of Heart of Darkness are made so Coppola can make his point about the Vietnam War and society. The point being that the Vietnam War was completely meaningless and a lost cause among several others. However, as will be shown, these points come in conflict with eachother and are difficult to …

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… of the movie is.

Apocalypse Now is definitely a movie fit for an audience who wishes to be stimulated with thought overload. The movie is filled with all kinds of metaphors to the Vietnam War and parallels to Heart of Darkness. Coppola makes alterations to Heart of Darkness to achieve his own personal point that is very different from Conrad’s, but his point is still not completely clear. Coppola’s opposition to the war is obvious but he throws in a lot of other elements to try to add even more onto that. Coppola uses Kurtz to examine the importance of not judging, “The Hollowness of Men”, and the Christlike figure of Kurtz himself. All of these are great ideas, but the ideas are just scattered throughout the movie and show no cohesiveness. However, one can still appreciate Coppola’s thought-provoking ideas without completely understanding what they all mean.

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