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Hearts of Darkness
DVD disk
Nov 28, 2007 By: Jason Adams
Hearts of Darkness order
Director:
Eleanor Coppola

Actors:
Francis Ford Coppola
Eleanor Coppola
Martin Sheen

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
When Francis Ford Coppola went to the Philippines in 1976 to start work on APOCALYPSE NOW, his wife Eleanor simultaneously began shooting this documentary chronicling the films difficult shoot and her husbands hellish personal journey in making it.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
HEARTS OF DARKNESS may seem like a glorified Making Of documentary, but it goes so much more beyond the typical behind-the-scenes extra youd find on a DVD. Eleanor Coppolas extensive account of her husbands trials and tribulations shooting APOCALYPSE NOW offers unhindered access to the 1979 masterpiece, stuff thatll give serious film fanatics raging geek wood.

You really couldnt ask for a better film to get this detailed treatment, as the drama and conflict behind the camera is the stuff of legend. The history of the project alone is epic, with everyone from Orson Welles to George Lucas trying to get it off the ground, but it was an emboldened Francis Ford Coppola, fresh off the success of the first two GODFATHER movies, who self-financed the filmand was met with near disaster at every turn. There were casting upheavals and Marlon Brando acting bizarre. Sets were destroyed by typhoons. Actors had heart attacks. Drugs and booze ran rampant. War broke out in the Philippines during filming. (Half the helicopters in the Ride of the Valkyries scene were called away in mid shot to fight rebel forces.) You couldnt make this stuff up, even if youre an Oscar winner.

But just as the making of the movie was compellingly unique, so was Coppolas approach, which is thankfully captured unrelentingly in home movies and personal recordings. Its amazing the director agreed to release this stuff, as the film doesnt exactly sugarcoat his eccentric behavior and eventual breakdown; however, it does showcase a filmmaker-centric potential that pretty much defines auteur theory. While Coppola didnt have a completed script to shoot, it seems like he struggled more in determining his personal vision for the film, a process so chaotic it paralleled Martin Sheens mental journey in the fictional movie. (Coppola goes from saying APOCALYPSE NOW will be the first film to win a Nobel Prize to telling reporters that it will not be good.) And as you slowly watch the director lose control of the production and his personal identity attached to it, HEARTS OF DARKNESS becomes more than just a movie about making a movie, but a fascinating, unadulterated look at artistic expression, even in the face of failure. It was a production that got away from Coppola and a movie that nearly bankrupted him, but HEARTS OF DARKNESS will show you exactly how APOCALYPSE NOW grew in to a filmic masterpiece, as well as amaze you that it did.
THE EXTRAS
Commentary by Francis and Eleanor Coppola: While he initially calls the film embarrassing and suggests the alternate title WATCH FRANCIS SUFFER, Coppola has plenty to say about how he comes off in HEARTS OF DARKNESS, and how hes grown as a filmmaker since then. Im really glad we get the mans honest perspective and that he has a chance to defend himself. His wife is also there to give her take on things, but the two were not recorded together, which is a huge shame.

Coda: Thirty Years Later (1:06:10): HEARTS OF DARKNESS is to APOCALYPSE NOW, as CODA is to YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH. Shot in Romania in 2005, again by Coppolas wife, CODA tracks the directors first film in a decade. This is a fantastic addition to the DVD, as it lets you compare and contrast the filmmaker then and now. The man is still uses experimental tactics with a focus on the intellectual (this time tackling philosophy, religion and human consciousness), but here he comes off as more laid back and playful. The documentary also gives you a great first look at the movie, which sports promising performances by Tim Roth and Matt Damon. And you even get a few seconds of discarded footage from Coppolas long in development feature, MEGALOPOLIS as a bonus.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Cinephiles have long waited for the release of HEARTS OF DARKNESS on DVD and it definitely doesnt disappoint, offering fans something far deeper and revealing than your typical Making Of fluff. The disc doesnt have a lot of bonus material, but the CODA documentary is a great follow-up and sneak peek at Coppolas next film, and coupled the main feature is pretty much a perfect match. All in all, highly recommended for fans of the director or aspiring filmmakers themselves.

Extra Tidbit: Be on the lookout for a 14 year old Laurence Fishburne and a 4 year old Sofia Coppola.
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