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Tuesday22 July 2014

Top 50 films for architects: Apocalypse Now

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10: Apocalypse Now

Director: Francis Ford Coppola, 1979

Francis Ford Coppola’s interpretation of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is a journey into the unknown

Apocalypse Now

Helicopter raids punctuate a tale of despair and chaos.

Context matters. Coppola’s grandiose film about the Vietnam War was made when the memory of it remained raw; when the idea of imposing a mythic shape on the material seemed startling.

He turned to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. It is a despairing tale of the spiritual failure of European attempts to master Africa. In the film, history repeats itself on another continent 80 years later.

Both stories turn a journey up an unknown river into a voyage into the darkness of the self and the wider culture it is part of. Both employ a protagonist who is more observer than participant, who keeps his distance from the horrors. In both, the river is the thread that lends spatial consistency, punctuated in the film by incidents that disrupt the meandering progress like explosions.

The first apocalypse is a helicopter raid on a native village, with Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries drowning the whirr of the chopper blades. It starts in an exhilarating rush and ends in chaos. The next two take place at night in searchlight-glare that lends a fairground air to the carnage. All three are expertly orchestrated tumults: disastrous, but never dull.

The final episodes purport to take us to the heart of the human darkness the war has thrown up. In the film this comes down to the figure of Marlon Brando, his enormous bulk concealed in darkness, a corrupted hero whose answer to the horrors of war is to create a few of his own.

Top 50 Films for Architects

  1. An Actor’s Revenge — Director: Kon Ichikawa, 1963
  2. Shoeshine — Director: Vittorio De Sica, 1946
  3. Pixote — Director: Hector Babenco, 1981
  4. Man With a Movie Camera — Director: Dziga Vertov, 1929
  5. The Saragossa Manuscript —  Director: Wojciech Has, 1965
  6. Once Upon a Time in the West —  Director: Sergio Leone, 1968
  7. Late Spring —  Director: Yasujiro Ozu, 1949
  8. Nil by Mouth —  Director: Gary Oldman, 1997
  9. The Iron Gate (Cairo Station) — Director: Youssef Chahine, 1958
  10. Apocalypse Now — Director: Francis Ford Coppola, 1979
  11. Spirited Away — Director: Hayao Miyazaki, 2001
  12. Cry of the City — Director: Robert Siodmak, 1948
  13. Faust — Director: Murnau, 1926
  14. The Mill and the Cross — Director: Lech Majewski, 2011
  15. My Childhood; My Ain Folk; My Way Home — director: BIll Douglas, 1972, 1973, 1978
  16. Madame de... — director: Max Ophuls, 1953

 

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