Operatic Melodrama in Apocalypse Now
The political and social unrest of the 1970s provided Hollywood with some of its most influential films, often stemming from unlikely sources; two decades after melodrama's heyday, the genre re-emerged in an original form that continues to affect modern filmmaking. The historical influences of Italian opera and Hollywood family melodramas spawned a type of film that has been described as "historical, operatic, choral or epic" (Greene 388). Filmmakers of the 1970s explored the traditional modes of melodramatic expression in order to address the socially charged times they lived in. Filmed in the wake of the Vietnam War, Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now is a complex treatise of human morality and modern warfare that expresses itself through melodramatic conventions. Coppola contained his war movie to the personal level, in order to make larger criticisms of the Vietnam conflict. The central narrative, based on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, follows an Oedipal trajectory similar to those found in many 1950's family melodramas. The surreal, and often ironic use of music provides a startling counterpoint to the actions on screen. The film is imbued with many of the representative motifs, such as sexual dysfunction and alcoholism, which are found in earlier melodramas. Apocalypse Now helped to establish a new film genre - the operatic melodrama - that combined the historical representations of classic melodramas with the raw spectacle of modern filmmaking.
Although distinctive melodramatic traditions developed in multiple countries, the Italian model is the most similar to that of the 1970's epic. While some melodramatic traditions evolved through novels or the theatre, "in Italy, ...
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... out of a 1950s woman's film. The melodramatic influences of the film continue to manifest themselves in the newer release, just as Apocalypse Now continues to influence the epic movies of contemporary filmmakers. The unison of operatic spectacle and personal conflict spawned an original genre in the 1970s that remains an effective method of addressing social concerns. As we enter another period of political unrest and social change, it is likely that a new wave of melodramatic films is beginning to form on the horizon; there are certainly parallels between a government that declares war on terrorism and the U.S. army in Vietnam, who "knew everything about military tactics, but nothing about where they were or who the enemy was" (Cowie 143). From Conrad to Coppola, nuclear family to nuclear terrorism; never get off the boat, unless you're willing to go all the way.
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Through strong dramatic plots, characters and music, melodrama has created an engaging, well-developed form of theatre. But melodrama is not limited to one category. Like other forms of the theatre arts, melodrama can be further broken down into Victorian melodrama and Modern melodrama. As the names entail, Victorian melodrama was practiced in the Victorian Era (1837-1901) whereas Modern melodrama is still being performed today. Both equally exaggerated and emphasizing the good vs. evil conflict, these two forms of melodrama have shaped the stage theatrically and developed complexity in character and plot development.
Apocalypse Now is definitely a movie fit for an audience who wishes to be stimulated with thought overload. The movie is filled with all kinds of metaphors to the Vietnam War and parallels to Heart of Darkness. Coppola makes alterations to Heart of Darkness to achieve his own personal point that is very different from Conrad's, but his point is still not completely clear. Coppola's opposition to the war is obvious but he throws in a lot of other elements to try to add even more onto that. Coppola uses Kurtz to examine the importance of not judging, "The Hollowness of Men", and the Christlike figure of Kurtz himself. All of these are great ideas, but the ideas are just scattered throughout the movie and show no cohesiveness. However, one can still appreciate Coppola's thought-provoking ideas without completely understanding what they all mean.
With the end of the war and the fall of Mussolini, the international audiences were introduced to a new film style which is Italian films through a few great works by Rossellini, De Sica, and Luchino Visconti that appeared after 1945. For example, film from Rossellini’s “Roma, città aperta” in 1945 (Rome, Open City, 1945) and “Paisà” in 1946 (Paisan, 1946). For De Sica is “Sciucià” (Shoeshine, 1946), “Ladri di biciclette” (The Bicycle Thieves, 1948), and “Umberto D.” in 1952 and Visconti “La terra trema” (The Eart Trembles, 1948).
Since 1968, there have been at least 25 films made that portray the events of the Vietnam War. Historians have to ask themselves when watching these films, "Did the fictional character represent historical figures accurately? Is this how a soldier would react in this situation?" The point of view of the director of the film can change with simple alterations in camera angles. For example, a view from the ground of a battle seen can show how the innocent people had the war in their own backyards. The view from a helicopter can show Viet Cong firing rounds at American troops and the troops can't tell the difference between the innocent and the enemy. The audience feels empathy and sympathy for the person from whose point of view the camera is showing. Historians compare the trueness of one film to the rest, and they have found that every film is at least somewhat fabricated, and at least somewhat true.
“Under an overcast sky — seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.” This is the last line of the book Heart of Darkness and it summed up the setting and tone of the book. Apocalypse Now is an epic war film made in 1979 set in Vietnam directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It is based on the book Heart of Darkness. The settings of both the book and the movie are very different; they take place in completely different places. However, their effects are very similar to each other and shown in a variety of ways: in character development, cultural aspects, as well as thematically.
Genre is defined as a specific type of music, film, or writing. How is genre created? Is it through arbitrary critical or historical organization that society sets genre? The answer to ‘how is genre created’ lies in the audience. “Second, as the product of audience and studio interaction, a film genre gradually impresses itself upon the culture until it becomes a familiar, meaningful system that can be named as such” (Casper 274). Genre is conceived once an audience has been exposed to the same ‘type’ of film they are seeing several times. Every time an audience views a certain type of film, the characters and events soon become recognizable. This process is described as iconography. Family melodrama is a genre that uses relationship struggles
The memoir The Buddha and the Borderline tells the story of Kiera Van Gelder’s courageous journey receiving treatment for borderline personality disorder (BPD). BPD is a personality disorder defined by the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) as “a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, affects, and marked impulsivity” (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). BPD is a personality disorder and thus cannot be diagnosed until after the age of 18 when using the DSM-IV-TR’s diagnostic criteria. This does not imply, however, that BPD is an illness that restricts itself to adulthood; although the age of onset varies from individual to individual, BPD-like symptoms or features are usually evident in adolescence and sometimes even observed in childhood. In her memoir, Gelder states that she was diagnosed with BPD at 30 years of age but she later goes on to describe the symptoms of mental illness she experienced her entire life, including symptoms of depression and anxiety, mood swings, self-injurious behavior, suicide attempts, extreme self-image issues, binge eating and purging, and drug abuse (Gelder, 2010).
This film, from 1979 was directed by Francis Ford Coppula and starred Martin Sheen (Capt. Willard) and Marlon Brando (Col. Kurtz). The film takes place during the 1970's in the middle of the Vietnam War. Coppula was rewarded for his hard work by winning the Academy Award for cinematography. The story is based on the novel "Hearts of Darkness", by Joseph Conrad. The book and film depicts Capt. Willard in the middle of the Vietnam searching for Col. Kurtz, who has gone mad and started his own private war. Apocalypse Now uses its scenes to show three types of horror including psychological, gore, and surprise. Psychological horror plays with human rationalization. Gore shows a stunning or violent action. Surprise horror is instilling fear by catching the viewer off guard. Each type of horror appeals to different parts of human fear and requires different methods to pull it off properly.
Italian cinema is conventionally associated with neorealist films and their contribution to the international art film movement. However, while these films tend to draw on the ideas and artistic creativity of individual directors such as Fellini, Antonioni, and De Sica; there is also a strong tradition of genre cinema evident in more popularized examples of Italian film. Emerging in the post-war era, these filone, or formula films, were inspired by established American models such as the "sword and sandal" hero epic, the western, and the gangster film. Consequently, the international success of the peplum films of the 1950's, the spaghetti westerns of the next decade, and later, the Italian-American gangster film, are a collective testament to the post-war financial success of Italian Cinema as an exportable product.
In this essay I will look at the emergence of Italian neo-realist cinema and how Italian Neo-realism has been defined and classified in the film industry as well as how its distinct cinematic characteristics could only have been conceived in Italy and how these characteristics set the neo-realist style apart from other realist movements and from Hollywood.
Italian neorealism also called the Golden Age of Italian Cinema, is a national film movement portrayed by stories set amongst poor people and the regular workers, filmed on location, frequently using non-professional actors. Italian neorealism movies for the most part fight with the troublesome financial and good states of post-World War II Italy, representing changes in the Italian psyche and conditions of everyday life, including poverty, oppression, injustice and desperation. It mirrored the changing styles and states of mind of silver screen after WWII. Not just did Neorealism impact the way fictional movies were delivered in Italy, additionally in different nations too. While Neorealism served as a model for many of the films produced
Marked by a plot to attract the highlighted emotions of the audience, melodramatic films are derived from drama films. As we can see, “Melodrama” consists of “drama” and “melos” (music), literally meaning “plays combined with music.” The themes of dramas were exaggerated within melodramas, and the liberal use of music enhances their emotional conspiracies to a large extent.
In the period between 1943 and 1950 Italian cinema was dominated by Neorealism which became the most significant film style of post-war Europe. Formation began back in 1936 when propagandists opened modern Cincitta studios and the film school name ‘Centro Sperimentaledi Cinematografia’. Along with the opening of schools such as this was a movement that placed a group of cinematographers under full-year contracts, among them was Carlo Montuori who used his classic techniques in creating ‘Bicycle Thieves’ (1948) one of the most well known films produced during the Neo-Realism movement. Perhaps also one of the most influential directors was Roberto Rossellini who directed Rome Open City at the end of WWII. Many directors and influential films such as this began to change and shape the way Italian films were made and what their relation to society was like.
Michelangelo Antonioni initiated a shift in Italian film in the 1950s. He kept some aspects of Italian Neorealism but then moved away into the world of the art film. With Blow-up, which was made possible by a deal MGM for a series of films in English, he takes a meandering, odd storyline and places it in trendy, ?swinging? London (Thompson & Bordwell, 426-7). He further reinforces the distance between the diegetic world of the film and the audience through precisely spacious camera techniques. ?I want to re-create reality in an abstract form. I?m really questioning the nature of reality,? Antonioni has said honestly about the film (Arrowsmith, 112). He has taken the audience-active film to a new and interesting level.