Dec 27, 2011

Malaise Then - Apocalypse Now

There is a certain irony I suppose that I would be writing this from the steamy rainswept jungles of the Philippines not too far from where Francis Ford Coppola filmed the 1979 movie Apocalypse Now.   

From the start, Apocalypse Now, the film based on Joseph Conrad's novella, the Heart of Darkness was besieged with problems.  In the steamy Philippine jungle, the staff and crew were struck down with dysentery almost immediately, that together with a typhoon, delays and budget over runs, the film now, perhaps one of the greatest movies ever made was almost never completed. Grossly over budget and delayed countless times, the movie was finally released on 15 August 1979.

Looking back, Colonel Kurtz' final words seem today to be more prophetic than apocalyptic.  

"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!' "

America's Summer of Madness

It was the summer of 1979, a hot summer plagued by long gas lines and a sense of hopelessness, never-ending that seemed to permeate everything.    That summer our nation would be subjected to Jimmy Carter's infamous "malaise" speech.  The opening lines of which failed to reassure and instead conveyed a man's impotence.     It was as if everything was ending and the cultural decay had hastened.  Chaotic and mad, a film released late that summer entitled "Apocalypse Now" seemed just fitting for the zeitgeist.

So where are we today thirty-two years later?  Has the erosion of our confidence in the future finally destroyed the social and the political fabric of America?   As 2012 approaches how many Americans are confident of what the future holds?

It has been over thirty-two years since and little remains of the film sets at Baler and Caliraya here in the Philippines.  The jungle it seems has a way of forgetting the past.

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