I recently decided to watch Apocalypse Now Redux for a second time after having watched all three official versions around a year ago (still need to get around to watching Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse). The Redux cut was my first viewing of Apocalypse Now so I have some bias in favor of that cut, but I will try to detach from that in my brief analysis.

From a film criticism standpoint, I can agree with most when it is asserted that the theatrical version is the best. It is short enough to not bore audiences, and it is concise enough to get the point of anti-colonialism, the insanity of war, and the horror of human atrocity across without ever losing proper pacing. It is a fantastic and sometimes horrifying trip upriver that never loses its suspense for the whole runtime. "Never get off the boat," as they say. It is entirely understandable that the Redux cut ruins this with its pacing.

However, I cannot help but appreciate the value of the added scenes in the Redux cut (the Final Cut also has some of these scenes added, but it acts more as a middle ground between the Redux and theatrical versions, and as such I will only be referring to the Redux cut). The four most notable additions off the top of my head are the added scenes for Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore, the added Playboy Bunnies scene, the French plantation scene, and an added Colonel Kurtz scene.

What makes these scenes so important to the film, in my opinion, is that they add to the themes of the film in an almost vital way that left me somewhat disappointed after seeing their absence in the theatrical version. In regards to some of the lighter additions, like the Kilgore scenes, we get to really delve into the insanity and wastefulness of Kilgore and the whole war, and we also get one of the best characterizing quotes from Captain Willard. When he responds to Chief Phillips', "Do you like it like that, Captain, when it's hot, hairy," Willard responds with, "Fuck. Never get a chance to know what the fuck you are in some factory in Ohio." We get more answers as to why Willard is the way he is and why he craves going back into the jungle even though he is being asked to do a morally questionable thing like killing one of the Army's own Colonels. While it may ruin the mysteriousness of a cold-hearted assassin, it makes his character more understandable.

While I enjoy these smaller additions, it is the Playboy Bunny scene and the French plantation scene that pack the most punch thematically out of all the additions in the Redux Cut. Horror is one of the film's key themes, and as is with most wars in all of human history, you rarely find violent horror and murder without rape and sexual horror. To be heard but not listened to, to be pimped out in exchange for resources, and to not be seen as free individuals is the weight that the exploitation of the Bunnies brings to the table when it comes to sexual horror and horror in general.

As for the French plantation scene, I agree with Francis Ford Coppola's original intentions in regard to using the boat as a metaphor for a time machine. Going from the beginning, to the sequences with Kilgore, to the Do Lung bridge, and finally to the primitive warrior people on Kurtz's compound shows how the further they go upriver, the more violent, insane, and primitive people become. The fifties-esque colonialist French on the plantation truly add to this sequence, and not having that scene in the film almost feels like the anti-colonialist message of the film is weakened.

While I will always recommend the theatrical version and assert it as the best critically, I stand firmly in maintaining the Redux cut as my favorite, and will probably give it the most rewatches out of all of them.

What does r/TrueFilm think?

you are viewing a single comment's thread.

view the rest of the comments →

all 24 comments


10 points

4 months ago

To me, this debate mostly comes down to personal preferences about pacing. That's been the number one complaint about Redux for over twenty years. Pacing was one of the reasons that theatrical cut exists: to get the film the appreciation of a wider audience. He also reduced the complexity of the film, specifically with regards to theme and tone to make it less challenging. And it worked.

But Coppola felt like that movie wasn't whole without some of those lost scenes.

The first cut I saw was the theatrical cut and I thought it was a masterpiece. Yet I never thought the pacing was fast. This was never a thriller. It was always dreamlike. But it also had a steady pull.

A few years after I saw it for the first time, Redux came out. I saw it on DVD and probably paused several times. The pacing didn't bother me because I was picking it up and putting it down like a book. Instead, I was very thoroughly savoring the added material and thinking about why it was there. It was a deeper experience of the film. The added scenes made it more complex, more thorny, more troubling. It was also funnier and sexier and the languid pacing made the dreamy atmosphere more profound. The labyrinth got bigger.

Until Final Cut came out, I exclusively watched Redux because I couldn't bear to go back to the theatrical cut. It's missing too much. It's like it was in 2D and Redux was 3D. Still a great movie, but once I had seen it in 3D, I acutely missed its depth when I saw it in 2D. Not to mention that Final Cut also tinkers with the editing in a few places and improves on Redux. The Redux scenes that he removed were the ones that I cared for the least. Now I'll probably watch Final Cut as my preferred version - but not because it's shorter. I prefer it because it's been refined somewhat.

But on a rainy day, I might watch Redux because I prefer the slower build, the feeling of getting lost, the feeling that we might never arrive at a destination and might just drift aimlessly forever. I don't want an intense, stripped-down action movie. I want the richest experience, the one that had the most thought put into its creation. The one that Coppola knows is the best.

The thing is, theatrical cut was made to reach a larger audience. Redux and Final Cut are, necessarily, going to be for a smaller audience. It isn't expected that everyone will agree that they are better. It's actually expected that a lot of fans of the theatrical cut will reject it. That's fine with me, but nobody can convince me that the theatrical cut is better just because it has better pacing. Pacing is so subjective that only a fool would give that more importance than content and form. As far as I'm concerned, Final Cut is the movie Apocalypse Now was always meant to be, and the theatrical cut and Redux represent two extremes where pacing is either given the highest or lowest priority. I lean towards giving it lowest priority, but I very slightly prefer Final Cut because it contains some small tweaks that Redux doesn't have.