One of the all-time great documentaries about the making of a movie is also one of the least seen – Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse. It’s filled with unflinching behind the scenes footage of the legendarily difficult Apocalypse Now shoot, and in many ways the documentary is as compelling as the actual film, and it definitely has thematic parallels.
Sadly, you just can’t get the damn thing on DVD. I saw it on video tape about a decade ago, but have never seen it again since. Last year there was a very nice Apocalypse Now DVD set, which included the original cut and the longer Redux cut, but the lack of Hearts of Darkness was very obvious.
Today I had a chance to ask George Hickenlooper, who directed the documentary, about what the film’s future might be. Sadly, it sounds like it’s still quite up in the air. “I talked to Francis about it three years ago, and at the time he said he wasn’t ready for it to go out,” Hickenlooper said. “I think he’s uncomfortable with certain aspects of the film.”
It’s not surprising that Coppola is a little uncomfortable – the film in many ways documents his meltdown during production. But Hickenlooper says that Coppola doesn’t want some of the more colorful moments removed. “It’s not that he wants me to cut something out, I think he might want to add additional footage,” the director explained. “What bothers him the most is when he says, ‘Martin Sheen’s not dead until I say he’s dead.’ He wants that clip put in context. He’s embarrassed, but the thing is that he looks heroic in it, in my opinion. He did promise me that he would put it out at some point… but not yet.”
So what can be done to get Hearts of Darkness into your DVD collection? “Send Francis asking letters to put it out,” Hickenlooper says. Consider this my letter, Francis!