Movie Review: Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991)

Title: Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse
Release Date: November 27, 1991
Director: Fax Bahr | George Hickenlooper | Eleanor Coppola
Production Company: Zaloom Mayfield Productions | Zoetrope Studios

Having revisited Apocalypse Now for my Classic Movie Project, I also had to rewatch this movie which is one of my favorite in the small genre of Filmmaking Fiasco Documentaries along with Lost in La Mancha. Francis Ford Coppola famously went over budget and over time in shooting this film.  But that just scratches the surface of the problems the cast and crew endured, which included a typhoon that destroyed the sets, the helicopters hired from the Philippine military going off to suppress a rebel uprising, and the film’s star Martin Sheen suffering a heart attack.

The film was made with video and audio recordings made by Eleanor Coppola behind the scenes while filming, and is intercut with interviews with the cast and crew.  The most harrowing discovery of the documentary is that when Sheen was filming his character’s scene where he breaks a mirror and covers himself in his own blood, none of that was scripted and he was actually having a mental breakdown captured on film.  Francis Ford Coppola himself suffers self-doubt and anxiety while seemingly falling into a monomania about completing the film that parallels the character of Colonel Kurtz.

It’s a very unsettling window into the harrowing experience of making a classic film and some of the ethically questionable practices behind it.

Rating:  ***1/2

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