For a portrait of cinematic obsession and unbridled megalomania rarely seen outside of a Werner Herzog home movie, one would be hard pressed to find a more satisfying piece of work than Hearts of Darkness, co-directors Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper's 1991 documentary on the making of Apocalypse Now. It was a film that didn't make sense; in fact it had never really made sense. Orson Welles had tried to make a film out of Joseph Conrad's Hearts of Darkness back in the 1930s -- that didn't work so he went ahead and made Citizen Kane instead. Nobody in the mid-1970s seemed interested in a film about the nation's just-ended nightmare, the Vietnam War, much less one with a murky and heady script based on a dense novel people had to suffer through in high school. The film as planned was going to cost far too much money before it even started to go insanely over budget.
But none of that was going to stop wunderkind Francis Ford Coppola from mortgaging every last ounce of the Hollywood credit he had garnered from making The Godfather Parts I and II (not to mention most every penny he had to his name) and hauling his family along with an army-sized cast and crew off to the Philippines (in the middle of an ugly civil war, mind you) for a few years to make a film whose ending he hadn't quite yet figured out. The results were perhaps predictable, even before the monsoons destroyed most of the sets, he fired his lead actor, and star Martin Sheen suffered a heart attack. When Apocalypse Now premiered at Cannes in 1979, a still-shaken Coppola announced that what had was that he had gone into the jungle -- like the Americans into Vietnam, in yet another of his grandiose analogies -- with too much money, too much equipment, "and little by little we went insane."
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