Sidetracks: Willard’s scar in Apocalypse Now

17 08 2008

Talking about scars: There is something about Willard’s scar that puzzles me. First I thought the cut just happened to Martin Sheen on the set.

According to IMDB trivia section the shoot actually lasted 16 months, and the opening scene was shot as the last one. Now: if the cut was real, how could it last for over the year and heal as the movie progress from band aided, through a bloody scratch, to a scar?

Did they “included” the cut as it happened and adjusted the make-up so it fit the storyline?

BTW, maybe it’s the scar on Willard’s face that made me think of the opening scene as something that happens after he’d completed his mission? (reference)

ARCHIVE FILE | Elias/Jesus Parallels

17 08 2008

In the last version of the Platoon script the only direct reference to Elias as Jesus-like figure is a line from his death scene: “Elias crucified.” The other one could be Barnes calling him a water-walker. O’Neill’s remark from the movie: “he thinks he is a f***** Jesus Christ” replaced the original: “he thinks he’s Cochise or something” (in the original script Elias was an Indian).

One can surely see some “unwritten” parallels — aside from the Elias being considered a manifestation of goodness as opposed to “evil” Barnes: 

Elias is a rebel, working against established structures — Jesus with his new ideas was a troublemaker in Palestina. Both had devoted followers/disciples. Both are nearly the same age: script Elias is 23, but Dafoe was 32 in 1987 as the film was shot. 

The “beautiful night” scene could be seen as the night at Gethsemane. According to the voiceover, several days passed before Elias was shot. Jesus was captured next day, but in the night both seem to express a dark foreboding about the future and their own fate. 

If the night scene contained all the dialog that was written for it — we’d also have a kind of resurrection. Elias talks about coming back as a deer, and after the final battle Chris sees a deer in the jungle. 

Elias and Jesus both died because of betrayal. Barnes wasn’t Elias’ disciple, but still he was a fellow soldier.

For some reason, the first time I’ve read about the Jesus connection, I instantly recalled the verse from Isaiah, 53:2: “he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him”, which I found somehow fitting for the movie Elias (even if it surely doesn’t apply to the script version of the character) and “he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah, 53:4) which relates to Elias helping Chris with his overloaded backpack: “I’ll haul it for you”. The Bible resource

And of course there is the Last Temptation of Christ movie, with Dafoe playing Jesus and that “carrying cross” scene, which IMO is the weirdest parallel of all. I think those pictures say more than thousand words:

(The first picture is from the beginning of the movie, showing Jesus making crosses for the Romans)

If Temptation was made first, I would say Dafoe was purposely quoting it in Platoon. I still wonder if he could know in spring 1986 that he was considered for the part of Jesus. And could he know production details about the crucifixion? Temptation was shot in fall 1987 (source), but it was another project with very long forerun*, so IMO it’s theoretically possible. If it wasn’t the case, the serendipity is just mind boggling. (And I will forever regret I haven’t asked Dafoe about it having the chance) bang.gif image by alveni

Note: the way of carrying a “cross” as shown in the Jesus photo is (most probably) historically correct, but not necessarily iconic — it’s not what first comes to your mind when you think of “carrying a cross”, at least it wasn’t so in my part of the woods. What I thought about first was THIS.  I suspect it’s just the best way of carrying heavy loads, so the similarity is not necessarily intended. The allusion to Christ in that scene is IMO not alone the way of carrying the MG but that Elias carries it at all. He was a squad leader, nor a machine gunner: he carries that M60 for some of his inferiors, probably King. It’s another “I’ll haul it for you/carrying our sorrows” situation not required by the script. It’s not even logical as King was surely big enough to carry both the MG and Elias. 🙂

Ah, yes, one more detail from the death scene. If you look closer you can easily see that Dafoe has triggers in both hands (they were supposed to set off the explosives on his body, but didn’t work). When he stretches his arms toward the sky, the trigger in his right hand looks like a nail sticking out. (I wonder if this image could cause some subliminal reaction and that’s why people were thinking of him as a Jesus figure)


* The Last Temptation of Christ was a project which spent a long time in the drawer, was recast for several times and finally shot with very small budget because of the controversy surrounding the subject.

ARCHIVE FILE | Platoon/Apocalypse Now Parallels

17 08 2008

Family ties
Charile Sheen is Martin Sheen’s son, he actually was in the Phillipines as Apocalypse was shot and “worked” as an extra. There are some speculations if casting Charlie (or Emilio in the first run) in Platoon was the way Stone wanted to make a reference to Apocalypse.

The  Voiceover
Protagonists’ voiceover is used in both movies.

The Journey
Both movies describe the protagonist’s journey into the “heart of darkness”, and they end with a murder of a fellow soldier. During the trip Willard becomes more and more like Kurz, Taylor becomes Barnes – the “only one who can kill Barnes”. 

The Barnes/Kurtz parallel
Kurtz can be seen as more sophisticated, philosophical version of Barnes. They both faced horrors of war, they are sick of the hypocrisy of the politics and see the necessarity of extreme means in an extreme situation. Both are almost supernatural figures. Others see them as insane, but Kurtz’s madness (or is it rather the ultimate clarity?) is much more spectacular. Ironically, it was probably Kurz’s philosophical mind that broke him in the end, because — unlike Barnes — he couldn’t stop THINKING, seeing the bigger picture, he couldn’t turn on the autopilot and do what he was said. 
If Barnes was more articulate he could say these words instead of just stating “I am reality”:

“(…) You have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that… But you have no right to judge me. It’s impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face… And you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared.” (…)

“They  train young men to drop fire on people. But their commanders won’t allow them to  write f*** on their airplanes because it’s obscene!”

“It’s judgment that defeats us”.

Both Kurz and Barnes actually have chosen a person to kill them. These lines would fit in Taylor’s voiceover, if there was any in the scene when he kills Barnes:

“Everybody wanted me to do it, him most of all. I felt like he was up there, waiting for me to take the pain away. He just wanted to go out like a soldier, standing up, not like some poor, wasted, rag-assed renegade.” 

Rhah and the Photographer
I can also see some likeness between Rhah and the photographer in Apocalypse, they both preach about love and hate… each of the characters is a kind of a crazy shaman. The Photographer can see the method behind Kurtz’s madness, as Rhah can see a method behind the tactics of Barnes. Even their clothes are somehow similar: both are wearing traditional (probably Montagnard-made) vests.

Literary sources
Platoon is based on Moby Dick (more about it soon) in the same way Apocalypse is based on Heart of Darkness.

The Location
Both movies were shot in the Phillippines, using local army help and equipment. US Army refused to cooperate.

Michael Herr
… cowrote Apocalypse, in his book Dispatches he quotes some graffitti form soldiers’ helmets and at least three of those grafitties appear on the helmets in Platoon.

Oh, yes, the scar
Taylor get his cheek cut by Barnes, Willard gets a scratch below his eye, almost at the same spot, as the Cavalry bombs the beach. Unlike Taylor’s, Willard’s scar has no significance at all. 

By accident the catholic priest saying the Mass in Apocalypse is credited as… Father Elias. Ah, well… 🙄


Actually it was all that I wanted to post here, but once you start googling… 

The Developing Process
First drafts of both movies were written in 1969. (see Break post) Both were thought to be accompanied by The Doors’ music. Both turned out to be something entirely different in the end. Coppola, like Stone was able to make Apocalypse after (and because of) a success of their previous movies (The Godfather and Midnight Express respective).

The project began with George Lucas’s plans to direct a script written by John Milius in 1969 entitled The Psychedelic Soldier, with Coppola as executive producer. Lucas had planned to shoot his film as a faux documentary on location in South Vietnam while the war was still underway. But a production deal with Warner Bros. fell through, and Coppola moved on to co-write and direct The Godfather (1972). The huge success of this Oscar®-winning film gave him the clout to reintroduce the idea of Apocalypse Now, which would be filmed by Coppola’s own American Zoetrope Studios for United Artists, on location in the Philippines. Source

The Real People and Events
In both movies at least some of the characters are based on real persons. 

Fred Rexer, from whom the Willard character was based, actually witnessed the incident in which children had their arms hacked off, as described by Kurtz in his monologue. (source) (Wikipedia on Fred Rexer)

The real-life model for the updated Kurtz was Col. Robert Rheault, a commanding officer of U.S. Special Forces in Vietnam who was court-martialed in 1969 for the murder of a Vietnamese guide he suspected of being a double agent. The charges against Rheault eventually were dropped, but his career had been ruined by what the press called “the Green Beret murder case.” Official documents had described the killing of the suspected agent as “termination with extreme prejudice” — a phrase repeated in the film. (source)

There are two possible models for Col. Kilgore: Lt. Col. John B. Stockton, squadron commander of the real 1st Squadron – 9th Cav of the First Cav Divison (source) (source) and Steve Kanaly, “a radioman in Col. Stockton’s outfit, was a mil. advisor on Apocalypse Now, and suggested the character to Milius when they met at a skeet shooting range” (source)

A Murder in Wartime (
In June 1969 a group of Green Beret officers, suspecting that one of their Vietnamese operatives was a double agent, executed him and dropped his weighted body into the ocean off Nha Trang. (…) In the end the Army dropped the charges, but the “Green Beret case” nevertheless had a significant effect on the conduct of the war: it provoked Daniel Ellsberg to leak the Pentagon Papers.

There are scenes in both movies that actually happened, unbelievable as it is:

The scene [in Apocalypse] where Roach uses a grenade launcher to kill the NVA soldier in the wire during the scene at the Do Long bridge is taken directly from Dispatches
from IMDB


I bet there is more to be found.

Spotted: The Second Name Patch And The Second “M”

17 08 2008

It’s major Stone’s. Did they start to attach those patches right now or what? 
BTW, that patch on Wolfe’s flak vest is on the wrong side… isn’t it? huh.gif image by alveni


Actually, in the night ambush scene you can see Doc writing that “M” on Gardner’s forehead. I’ve always thought he was checking Gardner’s pupils. (reference). And suddenly the “M”s multiplied too…

Re: How did they create Barnes facial scars?

17 08 2008

Reposted from IMDB to safe it from disappearing…


Me: Watching the movie for the first time (or even first few times) I was wondering if the scar is real. I think it was the first time ever I considered a possibility of movie make-up being a real thing. 🙂

There is not much information about the way of making scars:

You could read through the articles’ section at Gordon J. Smiths (Platoon’s make-up artist) website (caution: gory images!), but he gives no real details away…

…nor do those folks talking about movie make-up…

Here is a similar case with the most detailed description I could get.

Probably the best way is to buy a scar kit and try it out 😉

Here is a hi-res picture of Berenger’s face with the scar

I suspect they make a kind of concave plastic profile and glue it to the skin wrapping it around so it builds a dent… dang, my English is not good enough to describe what I mean… it’s a guess, so it doesn’t matter that much anyway, lol.

In any case it doesn’t seem to be made by applying big silicon prosthetics covering whole half of Berenger’s face with the scar carved in it (like e.g. in Terminator).

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