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Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now

Above all else, 'Charlie' is the enemy and the land where he resides is abominable. As Captain Willard maintains, 'I was going to the worst place in the world and I didn't even know it yet' (Coppola 1979). The film portrays Vietnam as a locale even worse than Hell. As Chef expresses at one point in the film, 'I used to think if I died in an evil place then my soul wouldn't make it to heaven. Well, fuck. I don't care where it goes as long as it ain't here,' (Coppola 1979). Thus, we see the depiction of Vietnam as an evil, hellish place. Such depictions undermine the fact that it is the 'Americans' who are in Vietnam trying to kill Vietnamese.

Not content to depict Vietnam as the worst place in the world, the Vietnamese are also depicted in the film as having a culture that is barbaric in comparison to Western civilization. As Captain Willard, who acts as the narrator of the film's discourse, tells us, 'Charlie didn't get much USO. His idea of great R&R was cold rice and a little rat meat,' (Coppola 1979). Instead of having intergroup contact with the Vietnamese to gain a greater understanding of their land and culture, the film provides us with an ethnocentric, Western perception of both that provides no insight or expansion of knowledge about them. Instead, it relies on racial stereotypes and fear to portray the Vietnamese as deserving of U.S. domination.

As Said writes in Culture and Imperialism, when he is discussing Conrad's Heart of Darkness, on which Apocalypse Now is based, 'For if we cannot truly understand someone else's experience and if we must therefore depend upon the assertive authority of the sort of power that Kurtz wields as a white man in the jungle or that Marlow, another white man, wields as narrator, there is no use looking for other,' (24). Charlie is portrayed as savage and not quite a noble one throughout the film. As Lieutenant Carlsen tells Captain Willard, 'You're in the asshole of the worl...

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Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 04:48, September 21, 2017, from
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