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Admiral Kurtz in Apocalypase Now

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Admiral Kurtz

Apocalypse Now is a film about madness. In this film, Willard, played by Charlie Sheen, is sent through madness, reminiscent of Dantes' journey through hell. His mission is to kill Kurtz, who's gone insane according to military intelligence. Kurtz has gone on his own, starting his own society in Cambodia, where his troops and the local tribes worship him as a god. Kurtz has committed murder by waging his own ferocious, independent war against Vietnamese intelligence agents with his own native Montagnard army across the border in an ancient Cambodian temple deep in the jungle. General Corman explains the confused insanity of the war: "In this war, things get confused out there, power, ideals, the old morality, and practical military necessity." The colonel has become a self-appointed, worshipped godlike leader/dictator of a renegade native tribe. General Corman describes Kurtz's temptation to be deified: "Because there's a conflict in every human heart between the rational and the irrational, between the good and the evil. The good does not always triumph. Sometimes the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. Therein, man has got a breaking point. You and I have. Walter Kurtz has reached his. And very obviously, he has gone insane." Kurtz's motivation behind his actions is his need to feel godlike, to act without judgment.

In Kurtz' camp, a site of primitive evil, they are greeted by a crazed, hyperactive, fast-talking, spaced-out free lance photo-journalist played by Dennis Hoper. The babbling combat photographer, garlanded by his camera equipment, hopes for their sake, that they haven't come to take away Colonel Kurtz. He describes the great awe all the natives have for their jungle lord: "Out here, we're all his children." The photojournalist appears to be a fanatical follower of Kurtz, worshipping the enigmatic, genius "poet-warrior" Kurtz as a personal god and expounding Kurtz's cause: "You don't talk to the Colonel, you listen to him. The man's enlarged my mind. He's a poet-warrior in the classic sense...I'm a little man. He's a great man. I should have been a pair of ragged claws, scuttling across floors of silent seas, I mean...He can be terrible. He can be mean. And he can be right. He's fighting a war. He's a great man." He offers first-hand advice from his own experience: "Play it cool, laid back...You don't judge the Colonel." Willard is impressed by Kurtz's power over the people. He notices Captain Richard Colby among the native's tribesmen.

The crew returns to the boat to wait until Willard can talk to Kurtz. Chef feels that the Colonel is "wacko, man. He's worse than crazy. He's evil...It's f--kin' pagan idolatry. Look around you." Willard leaves with Lance to scout around and try to find the Colonel, keeping Chef on the boat and instructing him to radio for help if necessary: "If I don't get back by 2200 hours, you'll call in the air strike." Willard sees hundreds of bodies - proving Kurtz' insanity: "North Vietnamese, Vietcong, Cambodians." He realizes Kurtz's power over life and death: "If I was still alive, it was because he wanted me that way." Willard soon finds himself in awe of Kurtz's power over people. He is fascinated with him and his ways as a leader, and he begins to see Kurtz in the same way the tribesman do.

Willard feels ambivalent about his mission's task, finding Kurtz brilliant but rambling and spiritually troubled - as the camera pans across mythic texts (The Holy Bible, From Ritual to Romance by Jesse L. Weston, and James Frazier's The Golden Bough) in Kurtz's headquarters. Kurtz speaks of the "horrors" that he has seen in the bloody conflict, and denies that Willard has any moral right to judge his actions or behavior. Kurtz also believes that "moral terror" and "horror" are necessary to preserve civilization as he philosophizes with further pronouncements. Kurtz believes the atrocities revealed for him the moral strength and commitment of men who loved their families and could still act so monstrously "without judgment" - with a primordial instinct to kill. According to him, those revelations have accentuated the moral ambiguity of war and justified his rampage in Cambodia - a mass-murder and mutilation of the enemy "without judgment," to shorten the war. Kurtz wants primitive men, similar to agent Willard on his mission, who can kill without judgment "because it's judgment that



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