I occasionally post about DVD's that I hope will eventually get released. Among the ones I've been waiting for are the Frank's Place series, the movie Sammy and Rosie Get Laid and the documentary Hearts of Darkness. Happily, I need wait no longer for Hearts. It was released on DVD on November 20.
Hearts of Darkness was put together from home movies that Frances Ford Coppola's wife Eleanor took while they were in the Phillipines while Coppola filmed his Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now. The movie, based on Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness, began filming not too long after the actual Vietnam War ended, in 1976. It was not released until 1979, after drastic cuts imposed by the studio. Eleanor Coppola's camera captures a Francis Ford Coppola struggling to get the movie made, unaware, apparently, that his quest is beginning to mirror the story the film was based on.
The filming of the movie was a textbook study in Murphy's Law-- that everything that can go wrong will, and at the worst possible time. From the start, filming in the jungle locations was an ambitious-- and expensive-- proposition. Things go wrong right from the start. Coppola begins filming with Harvey Keitel in the part of Captain Willard, the lead character. Coppola fired Keitel just a few weeks into filming, and hired Martin Sheen to play the part. In the meantime, Marlon Brando, showed up to play the part of the gaunt, malarial Col. Kurtz-- but weighed over 400 pounds.
Coppola was able to work around these things, but more and more goes wrong. The Phillipine government, which had been renting helicopters to the production, suddenly needed the helicopters to fight a guerilla insurgency. A typhoon demolishes the set-- and then actor Martin Sheen had a heart attack. All through this, Coppola begins to unravel. He is afraid that the studio discovers that Sheen had a heart attack, it will pull the plug on the production, which is way over budget, and is rumored to be heading toward being one of the most expensive film ever made, at $20 million. Coppola frantically tries to control every aspect of the production, including any information going out about the production.
In the meantime, Coppola's life and marriage were headed toward meltdowns. Eleanor Coppola's camera is unsparing, often unflattering to her husband and amazingly frank in documenting what was going on. Watching the documentary, one is amazed that the movie finally did get made (a version that restored the cuts the studio forced on Coppola was released a few years ago) and that the Coppola's marriage survived. This movie is definitely worth a rental.