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

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

Directors – Fax Bahr, George Hickenlooper & Eleanor Coppola

Cast – Francis Ford Coppola, Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen, George Lucas, John Milius 

Plot – A documentary exploring the behind the scenes madness that was the making of Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam epic Apocalypse Now. 

“I will tell you right straight from…the most sincere depths of my heart, the film will not be good.”

Review by Eddie on 28/09/2022

In what may just be an outright act of cinematic sacrilege when it comes to statements around praised feats of film-making, I have personally never been overly enamoured with Francis Ford Coppola’s controversial Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now as many others through history have been but despite mine or anyone else’s feelings towards the final product that was unleashed into the world after a lengthy wait in 1979, there’s an undeniably amazing story behind Coppola’s film even managing to be completed. 

Documented by Coppola’s wife Eleanor, who joined her husband and crew on the set of the movie in the depths of the rugged Philippines countryside for a shoot that lasted for multiple years due to delays, health issues and many more instances explored in this documentary, Hearts of Darkness takes viewers on a wild, if unfocused ride behind the madness that can be Hollywood movie making, with Coppola battling his own demons around the ones that surrounded him at almost every corner of his grand opus. 

There have been very few as raw and honest looks at movie making documented before or after Hearts of Darkness’s 1991 release, where it was the winner of multiple Emmy awards, with only the likes of Lost in La Mancha, Burden of Dreams or Lost Soul coming close to showing the uncompromising nature many directors face when they are trying to bring their visions to life, with Coppola being shown here as a determined figure who slowly but surely morphs into a fragile artist unable to come to grips with what he may be doing to himself, his career and a project he starts to see purely as a failure with zero chance of being what he envisioned. 

Much like the film it is documenting being made, Hearts of Darkness is an often gonzo almost otherworldly experience, witnessing cast members come face to face with tigers, helicopters traversing the skies and quickly leaving to go and fight rebel forces who are mere miles from the films sets or Coppola engage with remote tribes ceremonies and elders, nothing about Hearts of Darkness feels normal or expected, making it a unique and unparalleled examination of the film-making process that could just be the type of exercise that scares away budding directors thinking making movies is a dream job. 

Final Say – 

Whether you adore, feel indifferent or hate the film it explores being made, Hearts of Darkness in an undeniably insightful deep dive into the unbelievably chaotic making of a film many see as an all-time masterpiece and while it at times gets lost in the jungle like the fictional characters at the heart of Coppola’s film, this documentary is mandatory viewing for anyone with a passing interest in film history. 

3 1/2 shirtless directors out of 5  

6 responses to “Film Review – Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991)

  1. Pingback: Film Review – Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991) – Uncle jona·

  2. I can’t believe I haven’t seen this, at least not that I can remember. I’m a huge fan of Apocalypse Now and watch it every year or so. LTC Kilgore was (is) my hero and I always thought of him when things got… chaotic. Thanks for bringing this one up, I’ll definitely be checking it out.

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