A good story in my eyes is one that engages me beyond listening, watching, or reading. Typically when I’m watching a great movie I end up becoming absorbed into trance like state that leaves me confused on my whereabouts when the credits start rolling. Usually for a good book I’ll end up mindlessly repeating something small until I realize that I am about to break something. Either way, a good story is one that engages you in more ways than one.
My story analysis looked towards the evolution of how war is portrayed up to the 80’s and beyond. The Vietnam war marked an evolution in human society both domestically and militarily. What movies like Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now, (technically 1979, but still) and Platoon presented was, for a lack of a better term, the duality of man. While these movies are partially fictionalized they present real scenarios that were played out day by day in the lives of people who fought.
From what we know of the Vietnam war is on a smaller scale there were few who dictated the path that unfurled for something as small as a platoon for example. In that sense the highest ranking member of a platoon operates in a real life hypertext narrative. Life in general is based on the path you chose, but when the control of life is displaced it comes down to what decisions (if any) are made above you. Previously war movies hearkened on a bigger sense of unity through something like patriotism. War time atrocities for the most part weren’t portrayed in earlier films even some early Vietnam War films.
Apocalypse now is a movie that feels almost metaphysical in nature. It’s one of the rare movies that keeps an almost dream like undertone throughout the entire movie. The story follows a war torn vet, Captain Benjamin L. Willard, on a mission to kill a colonel who went rogue. Willard himself is already developing some of the mind bending affects of combat which leaves him in a state of, when he is not on duty he wants to be back in the jungle, when he is on duty the opposite is true. The movie itself is a cinematic masterpiece incorporating captivating scenes of Vietnamese jungle and coastal regions. On the other side there are numerous areas showing a worn torn region and a worn torn population. The sense of duality is supported by a main part of the plot, which is the fact that he has to cover an almost never ending river. His journey takes him through different stages of combat, each one becoming less meaningful towards the end of the movie. Their descent into the river paralleled their descent into madness. Each river base they encounter shows more and more of what combat did to the minds of those twenty year old kids at the time. Eventually the movie turns to a disassociated state when they no longer are using drugs to cope, but they are using every day. The climactic point of unorganized chaos is when they reach the Do Lung bridge. Fireworks are being set off on the bridge with some of them hitting the bridge making it wobble above the river. The people on the base are engaging in full on conflict with no one shooting back from the other side. Everyone else depicted waited in the darkness and just stared. While Captain Willard traverses the bunkers a mix of eerie music and guitar riffs fills the air along with screams and gunfire. Once Willard finally finds some fuel and leaves the bridge itself is slowly collapsing in itself from being shot at or hit with fireworks.
A lot of what is thought of war is what I would consider a linear outcome. Effectively the war itself follows a purpose for the greater good of humanity, and those who took part and were affected can move forward with their lives once they rebuild. This movie gave a piercing glimpse into what millions of Vietnam veterans still come to grips with today. Soldiers who fought faced internal challenges that go against what makes society work. The duality of man brought out through this war specifically should only exist then and never repeat itself. Apocalypse now is one of the rare movies that showed the horrors that everyday soldiers endure beyond killing. While it is fictionalized to some aspect, atrocities like it existed and that is what makes it a compelling story. Any story that can shed light on a purposefully forgotten past enhances it value to our society greatly.