Apocalypse Now Redux: Some Reflections

Jun 2008
204
George Town Tasmania Australia
#1
This is an excellent film-resource for portraying the psychology and opposition to the Vietnam war. I was a history teacher for over 30 years and would recommend Apocalypse Now Redux(ANR). This film is a 2001 extended version of Francis Ford Coppola's epic war-film Apocalypse Now(AN). AN was originally released in 1979. Coppola, along with editor/long-time collaborator Walter Murch, added 49 minutes of scenes that had been cut out of the original film.

The Redux edition represented a significant re-edit of the original version. I watched ANR 14 years after its release last night here in Tasmania on SBSONE TV, 4/4/'15 from 8:30 p.m. to 12:15 a.m. In the next two days, 5 & 6/4/'15, I wrote and compiled the following prose and poetry as a personal reflection on Apocalypse Now Redux(ANR). If this post is too long for readers I advise that: (i) they stop reading when their eyes start to glaze over and they lose interest, or (ii) skim or scan as your tastes dictate.-Ron Price, Australia
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Part 1:

In 1994 I was, among other things, a lecturer in English Literature to matriculation students wanting to get into university. I worked at what is now Polytechnic-West in Perth Western Australia. Five years later, in 1999, I retired from a 50 year student and paid-employment life, 1949 to 1999. One of the novellas that my students had on their syllabus that year, 1994, was Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness(HoD). In Conrad's words, HoD is "a wild story of a journalist who becomes manager of a station in the African interior and makes himself worshipped by a tribe of savages."1

In the film I watched last night, ANR, Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Martin Sheen) is on a mission to kill the renegade and presumed insane U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Marlon Brando). As the film ends it appears that the Cambodian people who surround Kurtz at the edge of the river worship him or, at least, have some special relationship of devotion to him. This film, ANR, updates the setting of Conrad's novella. Capolla changes the jungle, the river and the backdrop of social issues. Francis Ford Coppola(1939-) is an American film director, producer and screenwriter. He was part of the New Hollywood wave of filmmaking.

Joseph Conrad(1857-1924) was a Polish author who wrote in English after settling in England. He is regarded as one of the greatest novelists in English. He was also a prose-poet of the highest order who depicted life's vanity, and the trials of the human spirit. He possessed an anguish directed toward modern society, and believed in man's fundamental aloneness and solitude in an apparently indifferent universe.2 There is a sense in this novel of "draining one's own self dry without a sense of thirst."3-Ron Price with thanks to 1Wikipedia, 2Matthew Feldman, "The Search for Authenticity: Aspects of Conrad's Existential Vision," Postgraduate English Journal, Issue 06, September 2002; and 3Jean-Paul Sartre, The Age of Reason, 1945.

I could write much more about Conrad and his novella. Back in 1994 I made copious notes from my extended reading of many essays by literary critics, analysts of Conrad's letters and biographers of his life. Suffice it to say, Heart of Darkness(HoD) was one source for my starting point as I write my reflections on this film, ANR, that I watched last night. A second starting point for my reflections was my first viewing of AN at some time in the 1980s. Apocalypse Now(AN), was a 1979 American epic adventure war film set during the Vietnam War in 1967-8, and it is the film of which Redux is a revision. The film was a mirror reflecting the feelings of millions about the war in Vietnam, in all their complexity and sadness. This was how that eminent film reviewer Roger Ebert described the film in his review. A third starting point was two prose-poems I wrote about the concept 'apocalypse' in the first years of my early retirement after taking a sea-change at the age of 55. These 2 pieces of writing are found below:

Part 2.1:

ONE IMMENSE APOCALYPSE

There was unquestionably a sense of the oneness of all of life at the outset of the romantic period of literature in the West. For those whose knowledge of the history of western literature is minimal--the romantic period was at its peak from approximately 1800 to 1850. I have tried, in the prose-poem below, to link an example of this oneness in the poetry of Wordsworth, with the beginnings of the presursor-period to the Babi and Baha'i Revelations. That presursor period was, arguably, 1744 to 1844. I have tried to link Wordsworth's sense of darkness and of tempest with the Guardian's similar phraseology in the opening paragraph of The Promised Day Is Come. I have been reading and seriously studying: (a) Wordsworth, off and on, for nearly 25 years now, and (b) Shoghi Effendi(whom Baha'is refer to as 'the Guardian') for nearly 60 years. The poem of Wordsworth's which I draw on for this prose-poem of mine below is: 'Simplon Pass.' I only discovered this poem for the first time on 21/3/'01 as I was writing this particular prose-poem.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 21/3/'01 to 5/4/'15.

So many fellow travelers on what seems
an endless road, travelling on a journey
of many years at a slow pace, with heavy
load which 'tis a speedy trip if one looks
at it with a different sense of time & step.

So many houses, streets & towns born
over the last several generations, at least
since that indomitable man left his home
and pursued with undiminished zest the
course of his labours1 in the Napoleonic
period on the periphery of that world so
very Euro-centric, Christo-centric in the
1790s before Wordsworth got going was
still so centered to the middle of the 20th
century, although the centre did not hold.2

This time a tempest unparalleled in its
effects, unpredictable in its course, &
unimaginably glorious in its ultimate
consequences, has been sweeping the
face of the earth. My fellow-travelers
have been gripped in its devastation &
fury even now in this our 21st century
with the centre totally disappearing....

But I can see, like you3 the workings
of one mind, the features of one face,
the blossoms of one tree, and also one
immense apocalypse raining down as
if from the heavens of eternity giving
me to drink an endless drink: my life.

1 Shaykh Ahmad(1753-1826) left his home in about 1793. See The Dawnbreakers, p.12.. All the towns I lived in had their origins at some time after 1793, except perhaps Toronto and Hamilton in Ontario, whose histories go back to before that date.

2 W.B. Yeats(1865-1939), the 1st stanza of his poem 'The Second Coming' is as follows:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

3 See Wordsworth(1770-1850), "The Simplon Pass," line 16.

Ron Price
21/1/'01 to 6/4/'15.
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Part 2.2:

SOME NOTES ON PROPHECY

Section 1:

The book Apocalypse Secrets is by John Able, a Baha'i of Hebrew descent who learned Koine Greek so he could read the Bible in its original language, New Testament Greek, patristic Greek. He then wrote about the Book of Revelation from a Baha'i standpoint. "I have always been skeptical", writes Dr. Robert Stockman, in his Foreword to this book, "about efforts to interpret prophecies. Such interpretations are attempts to discern the intent of God and are ultimately unprovable. It is rather like looking at a cloud in the sky and seeing in its ever-shifting shapes a horse, a person, or an angel. Who is to say God did not choose to make the cloud look like an angel when someone was looking at it? Who is to say the resulting (approximate) correlation of shapes was due to mere chance? How can one determine which is the case?

One thing the author mentions concerns the word 'Harmigdo.' Able points out that Tel Megdo is always erroneously indicated as the place of Armaggedon. It sits at the base of Mt. Carmel. Instead Har means mountain, Megid means Preacher, and O means His-God! Mt. Carmel is where the Old Testament prophets, Elijah and Elisha, both lived for a time, and now Mt Carmel is the centre of the holy places of the Bab and Baha'u'llah in Israel.

Back in the early 1970s I read Ruth Moffit's New Keys to the Book of Revelation and Apocalypse Unsealed. I took prophecy quite seriously in my youth, at least from the age of about sixteen, in 1960, until perhaps the early 1970s partly because in those years in the Baha’i community I had joined there was a special interest in the subject of prophecy.

After about a dozen years of interest and study, by the time I was living in the state of Victoria Australia, I realized that I was running into three groups of people in the wider world insofar as prophecy was concerned. One group had absolutely no interest in the subject, and this was by far the largest group. A second group had a great deal of interest. Their views were as fixed as the rock of Gibraltar and such a thing as dialogue with them was fruitless. A third group expressed a mild interest in the subject, and this group was so small that it seemed to be pointless to continue investing my time in a subject for which there was so little 'payoff.'

Section 2:

After nearly thirty years of a general lack of pursuit of this field, say 1975 to 2005, my interest began to slowly reawaken. By then I had retired from my professional work as a teacher and tutor, lecturer and adult educator. The interest, though, was not a bright spark of enthusiasm. Rather it was a slow kindling due to several Baha’is who had by the 1990s begun to write extensively on the subject. There was, too, the introduction into my life, slowly but surely, of a few people with an interest in prophecy and who were keen to discuss the subject and I with them, but only on rare occasions. I had by then, by the early years of the third millennium, developed a wide-ranging interest in much else, academic disciplines, and subjects of popular culture. The people I came to discuss prophecy with were all on the internet, but even those discussions were on rare occasions.

I began to collect notes as the millennium turned its corner. The notes were for the most part ones off the internet. I opened a file in 2001 as a gathering place for these notes. Time would tell how much time and interest I would invest in this subject which I began to examine over fifty years ago. After fifteen years, 2001-2015, this file is filled to overflowing, but I do not take a serious interest in the subject; it's one of the many 'also-rans' in my life.

Section 3:

There is much information one rarely
or never uses in life: prophecy and a
particular form: Biblical prophecy is
in such a category. I used to know a
great deal about this subject when I
was young, & all those old ladies &
men filled the spaces of the group of
Baha’is in that little town by the lake
where I was a youth so very long ago.

Daniel and the Book of Revelation verse
by verse and line by line as well as that
book Thief-in-the-Night filled my brain
with dates, with time-of-the-end stuff, &
eschatology, millennialism, but so rarely
have I used this info in the last 50 years:
with Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and
those occasional evangelic Christians who
were in my path in the years of young, late
and middle adulthood. And so now all the
pages lie dormant on my book shelves to
be brought out rarely when someone talks
to me about the Return of Christ, 1844, the
Messiah, and all that jazz; then I return this
paper to its place until the next, & rare, time
when the subject comes into my life in these
the evening years of my life while old age &

.....at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before me lies
Deserts of vast eternities.1

1 Andrew Marvell a poem: 'To his Coy Mistress'

Ron Price
11/12/'10 to 5/4/'15.
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Part 3.1:

An apocalypse was again before my eyes last night as I watched this film which that now quite famous film reviewer, Roger Ebert, said was "one of the central events of my life as a filmgoer." The remake of Apocalypse Now(AN), Ebert went on, had a voluptuous and saturated physicality. It was produced with a technical mastery in hellish production conditions on locations in the Philippines.

In one of the added scenes Brando sits in leaf-dappled sunshine, surrounded by children, reading articles from Time magazine to Mr. Sheen, who lies semiconscious in a tomblike cell. This is more apt, and wittier, than his recitation of ''The Hollow Men,'' but Mr. Brando's arch performance personifies T. S. Eliot's invocation of ''shape without form, gesture without motion'' and words from several of his poems: The Wasteland, Prufrock and The Hollow Men. -Ron Price with thanks to Roger Ebert's review of ANR.

By the 1990s I had come to appreciate the poetry of T.S. Eliot, and The Golden Bough: A Study in Comparative Religion, a wide-ranging, comparative study of mythology and religion written by the Scottish anthropologist Sir James George Frazer (1854–1941). Two books seen opened on Kurtz's desk in the film are From Ritual to Romance by Jessie Weston, a book I was not familiar with, and The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazer. These were the two books that Eliot cited as the chief sources and inspiration for his poem "The Waste Land", arguably the most famous poem of the 20th century and a poem on my matriculation syllabus in 1963 in Canada.Eliot's original epigraph for "The Waste Land" was the folloeing passage from Heart of Darkness, which ends with Kurtz's final words:

"Did he live his life again in every detail of desire, temptation, and surrender during that supreme moment of complete knowledge? He cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision; he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath: "The horror! The horror!" These same two words were the last heard in this film, ANR.

Part 3.2:

Eliot's poetry in this film went
to the heart of the matter, the
Heart of Darkness, not only in
Vietnam but other places in my
time in these four epochs that
have been my days in lifespan.

The film, I found, went to the
heart of peoples' feelings about
Vietnam. Kurst's insanity took
place in the year 1968 when I,
too, was having that psychotic
break from reality in Baffin!!1

I agree with Conrad that my view
of the world is my understanding
at a particular moment....and that
there's an essentially impenetrable
quality to human existence....and
that many mysteries can find no
ears to hear nor hearts to penetrate
as we saw, yet again, in this film
Apocalypse Now, Redux; but the
quest for transcendence is still a
worthy exercise as I wander on
between two worlds, one dead,
the other slowly, imperceptibly,
but not powerless to be born, as
Matthew Arnold put it long ago.2

1 In May 1968 on Baffin Island, I experienced my first episode of bi-polar I disorder and had to be hospitalized for 6 months.

2 “Wandering between two worlds, one dead
The other powerless to be born,
With nowhere yet to rest my head
Like these, on earth I wait forlorn."
- Matthew Arnold, 'Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse'

Ron Price
6/4/'15.
 
Jun 2008
204
George Town Tasmania Australia
#4
More Apocalyptic Stuff

Counting Hell

Last night I revisited "Cambodia’s Killing Fields" on the ABC's 4 Corners program “Where Are They Now?”(1) I read some of the commentary on the subject and the writing of Bruce Sharp(2) interested me the most. In his essay Counting Hell, Sharp wrote that we are confronted with incomplete and inconclusive evidence, and it is tempting, therefore, to say that we will never really see the full picture of what happened in Cambodia’s Killing Fields from April 1975 to January 1979. It is also tempting to say that after more than thirty years have passed, it is time to move on.

So much of the contemporary scene and of history is so often “a time to move on.” History is, as Edward Gibbon once wrote, “little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.” To the German-Swiss novelist and poet, Hermann Hesse, as he put it in his The Glass Bead Game, the study of history means “submitting to chaos and nevertheless retaining faith in order and meaning. It is a very serious task.”

Perhaps the most apt definition of history insofar as The Killing Fields is concerned is the one from James Joyce in his Ulysses. “History,” Joyce wrote, “is a nightmare from which I am trying to wake.” Historians are accustomed now to the idea of genocide. Cambodia was not the first occurrence of genocide and it will not be the last. There have been a myriad newer crimes since 1979.

“Do we still need to worry about the old ones?” Sharp asks rhetorically. Why should we bother with numbers? One and a half million, two and a half million deaths in Cambodia: does it matter? There was once a time when these were not merely numbers. These numbers had names, and that is why it matters, he concludes.2-Ron Price with thanks to(1) “Where Are They Now?” 4 Corners, ABC1 TV, 27/6/’11, 8:30 p.m., (2) the link: Bruce Sharp: Beauty and Darkness Contributors, and (3) the internet site Cambodia, 1 April 2005.

It was a big year ’79. Those killing
fields came to an end, the revolution
in Iran took place and I settled into a
life in Tasmania at the age of 35 Y.O.

I was in Ballarat at the CAE during all
those years of 1 to 2 million deaths in
Cambodia. I was busy reading so many
books, helping the Baha’i community &
surviving another 4 years of marriage-
family and community responsibilities
until I was worn-out due to my own wars,
my own hell with bipolar-disorder……and
Cambodia was at least a million miles away
in another world, indeed, another universe.

Ron Price
28/6/'11 to 20/4/'15.
 

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